Paint Mines

There is a fascinating little geological wonder located out on the Eastern Plains called the Paint Mines; so named for clays found there, thought by archaeologists to have been used by American Indians to make paint.

The Paint Mines are a collection of eroded gulches of sandstone-capped clay colored by leaching minerals, ghost-white hoodoos and elaborate labyrinths of eroded rock. They cut through the landscape southeast of Calhan, resembling the fantastical gullies and drainages of the Badlands of South Dakota.

Ronda and I attended a function out at the Paint Mines sponsored by the Palmer Land Trust (PLT), which is a public non-profit land trust dedicated to the permanent protection of open space, agricultural, scenic, and natural lands in Southeastern Colorado.

Ronda was considering a job opportunity with PLT and we wanted to know a little more about the organization, the people involved, and what their goals were. More about that later… we enjoyed a nice hike into the valley where you can walk in and around these fascinating structures. The rock formations are made of colorful clays stained by oxidizing iron compounds and capped by white sandstone. The colors are amazingly bright and it’s easy to see how the clays would have made excellent paint pigments with almost no mining effort at all.