Birding Wildlife, and Big Band Leader Glenn Miller’s Home
Beginning/Ending: Ault, Fort Morgan, Sterling. Meadowlarks sing, antelope graze, and the twin mesas of the Pawnee Buttes jut up from seemingly nowhere.
Ault: The tiny town of Ault is the western entrance to the Pawnee Pioneer Trails Scenic and Historic Byway. Remnants of the past are evident as you drive this town of quaint building facades.
Pawnee National Grasslands: The Overland Trail was one of the main thoroughfares pioneers used to cross the vast expanse of the rolling plains. Wagon ruts are still visible along much of the prairie here. Keep a sharp eye out for wildlife. Hawks and other birds of prey are common sights, as are pronghorn antelope (the fastest land mammal in North America.)
Pawnee Buttes: Within the grassland are the sandstone Pawnee Buttes, which rise above the plains at a height of 5,500 feet above sea level. A 1.5-mile hiking and horseback trail leads from the parking lot to an overlook. Look closely along your journey for fossils, as the buttes are one of the world’s best sites for vertebrate fossils. Some 100 species have been located near here. Hawks, falcons, and swallows nest in the surrounding cliffs, open to the public from July through February.
Fort Morgan: An exploration of Fort Morgan immerses travelers in a rich military, agricultural and industrial heritage. The Fort Morgan Museum provides additional information on area history, including a display on the town’s most famous resident, Big Band leader, Glenn Miller.
Sterling: Sterling houses the Overland Trail Museum, a must-visit to learn about the town’s history — you can even visit an old one-room schoolhouse. In downtown’s Columbine Park, note two of the town’s living-tree sculptures: trees carved into shapes representing, among other things, a mermaid, a golfer, and a herd of giraffes.
North Sterling State Park: Visit nearby North Sterling State Park or Prewitt Reservoir. This state park has nearly 100 RV-ready campsites with electrical hookups. If you’re a stargazer, it seems as if there are twice as many stars in the sky here.