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The Kinney Run Open Space was given official status by the City of Golden in Resolution 1573 on June 9, 2003.
“The unique geologic areas in the Eagle Ridge area (including the Dakota hogback, Cambria Lime Kiln, Kinney Run Trail, and riparian areas) are hereby designated as a geologic and environmental education park.”
In 2002 the City paved the Kinney Run Trail that had its beginning as an old wagon road and bisects the Open Space north to south. This trail now serves both to provide pedestrians and cyclists an opportunity to enjoy the unique characteristics of this area, as well as protect the surrounding natural space by controlling off-trail incursions.
From the mid 1800’s The Kinney Run Open Space was home to a north south wagon road that served to connect local mineral extraction activities with Golden. The geology surrounding the Kinney Run Trail provided natural materials such as limestone and clays that were used in production of bricks and ceramics by several factories in Golden.
Bricks were used extensively by the local mining industry for both structural and metallurgical processing and to rebuild the City of Denver after the fire of 1863. Some of the better quality clays were used to produce fine ceramics for dinnerware. The presence of these high quality clay deposits here and elsewhere in Golden led to the founding of the Herold China Company that later became CoorsTek, currently one of the world’s leading providers of high performance ceramic components applied across a wide range of industries.
The paved Kinney Run Trail runs right past the Cambria Lime Kiln built in 1879 that was restored by the City of Golden and the Golden Civic Foundation in 2009. This is the last remaining lime kiln in Jefferson County and was used to process limestone mined at the top of the ridge immediately behind the kiln to produce quicklime which was an essential ingredient for mortar, plaster and stucco. A spur (long since dismantled) of the Golden City and South Platte Railroad was built alongside the then existing wagon road to connect the kiln with the former Cambria Brick Works facility in downtown Golden.
The Kinney Run Open Space is a small basin that is formed by a subtle watershed divide separating natural run-off between Apex Gulch and Kinney Run Gulch. The water that flows through the “Kinney Run Gulch” (a defined waterway that collects and channels the natural run-off) finds its way to Clear Creek near the Miller-Coors Brewery. Along its course, it provides a water source for wildlife and serves as an irrigation water source for the Fossil Trace Golf Course.
The geology that defines the basin’s eastern rim includes the cliff-forming white Lyons Formation sandstone and conglomerate formed by ancient rivers approximately 290 Ma (1 Ma = one million years before the present era). The red Lykins Formation, which lies east of the Lyons sandstone, is mostly shale that was formed about 255 Ma from clay settling to the bottom of the inland sea that once covered this area. It contains thin layers of white, crinkly limestone made of fossilized bacteria that was mined for mortar. West of the Kinney Run Gulch and below the mountain front, the small basin contains the red Fountain Formation, composed of sandstone and mudstone deposited by rivers about 300 Ma, but now mostly covered by homes. Where exposed further south, the Fountain Formation creates the beauty of the Red Rocks amphitheater. While much of the surface of the eastern ridge is covered with some level of vegetation and thin, crumbly soils, the surface is fragile and easily eroded by foot traffic which is to be avoided.
As you move north and east through the Kinney Run Open Space toward Highway 6 Dakota Ridge is another prominent ridge running north-south: it is the high ridge with the power pylon and is also known as Eagle Ridge. Eagle Ridge contains the abandoned Santa Fe clay mine – evidenced by the white “trenches” now only visible from the Hwy 6 side of the Ridge. At the location of the retention pond along Kinney Run Trail, Dakota Ridge disappears abruptly, only to re-emerge in North Golden. This is the result of a long dormant geological fault. To the south of I-70, the Dakota Ridge is known as “Dinosaur Ridge,” and it contains fossil dinosaur footprints of international renown.
As a result of the generally steady water source, the shading provided by the steep ridges and the foothills, the mix of mature vegetation, the separation from automobile traffic activity, and the controlled human access provided by the paved trail, many parts of the Kinney Run valley are rich in wildlife that can be viewed easily from that trail.
Kinney Run is an official “eBird Hotspot” (ebird.org/hotspot/L3664908) with well over 100 species identified by observation. eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by eBird contributors around the world.
The rich vegetation serves as both an early spring and extended autumn food source for the local Elk herd. Mating ritual competitions can often be observed here in the fall, and the area has been a consistent calving ground because of the dense brush thickets.
The vegetation of the Kinney Run Open Space is a mosaic of Foothills Shrubland and Riparian, with some remnant Mixed-Grass Prairie. The blooming season starts in early April with sun sedge and creeping barberry and continues through August and September when rubber rabbitbrush and the sagebrushes bloom. Importantly about 2/3 of the plants in Kinney Run are native.
This mix of vegetation, in particular the Riparian, provides a particularly good food source and shelter for the local wildlife.
Plants often cross over from one vegetation type to another, but the kinds of plants found in Kinney Run that are typical of Foothills Shrubland are mountain mahogany, golden currant, wax currant, skunkbush sumac, and American plum. Cottonwoods and willows occupy the riparian zone with several different bulrushes and cattails.
Mixed-grass prairie is a mixture of grasses, small shrubs, and forbs. Needle and thread, green needle grass, and june grass are common cool season grasses that have been found in Kinney Run. In the warm season these are replaced by big and little bluestem. Shrubs and subshrubs include rubber rabbitbrush, broom snakeweed, and hairy false golden aster.
Forbs are perennial plants that do not form woody tissue. Kinney Run has a selection of common prairie forbs such as blanketflower, prairie coneflower, goldenrod, roundtip twinpod, prickly poppy, a locoweed, a couple milk vetches, and several different penstemons.
There are non-native weeds, including Colorado-listed noxious weeds, in Kinney Run. Some are currently managed by the City of Golden. However, over time we believe it will be important to increase the level of active management to preserve better the current vegetation mix.
Content contributed by Dr. Donna Anderson, Paul Haseman and Tom Scheich
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