‘Snow Animals’ in the Grand Mesa: Can You Make Them Out?
The Grand Mesa is one of the coolest outdoor playgrounds in Colorado. It has stood as one of the most recognizable features on the Western Slope for millions of years, and it is the subject of countless stories and legends.
The Grand Mesa was known to the Ute Indian tribes as 'Thigunawat', which roughly translates to 'home of the departed spirits.' During the winter months, some of these spirit animals are visible if you know where to look and can use just a hint of imagination.
The Legend of the Thunderbird on Colorado's Grand Mesa
The mark of the Thunderbird on the Grand Mesa can be seen inside the red circle above. This mark is the result of a natural rock outcropping on the side of the mountain. The Utes passed along the legend of the mighty Thunderbirds on the Grand Mesa and their battle with the giant river serpent who lived at the base of the mountain. Learn more about this legend here. If we are going to talk about snow animals on the Mesa, it's best to know the story of the Thunderbirds and move on from there.
How Many Spirit Animals Can Be Seen on the Grand Mesa?
If the spirit animals of the Thunderbird and the River Serpent are represented on the Grand Mesa then we know that some of the other animals who have called this mountain home would probably also be represented. The spirit animals that can be seen on the Grand Mesa include the Thunderbird, the River Serpent, the Hawk (some call it a Turkey), the Fish (recognized by some), the Swan, and the Bear.
Start with the Bear and the Swan
As the snow falls during the winter months in Mesa County the shapes of the spirit animals on the Grand Mesa are filled in and become easier to see. Two of the shapes that may be easier to start with are the Swan and the Bear seen in the photo above taken just this past weekend. The snowfield between the Swan and Bear is also marked on some maps as "The Fish". The Hawk or Turkey is located closer to the Thunderbird marking.
The snow animals on the Grand Mesa are visible from observation points along I-70 between Palisade and Grand Junction, and from several other vantage points.