About Field Sites
The Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) field site is a terrestrial NEON site located 70 km (43.5 mi.) northwest of Denver, CO near Rocky Mountain National Park. The RMNP site is 46.5 km2 (11490 acres) and includes National Park and Forest Service land in the foothills of Colorado. As a mid-elevation site at 2750 m (9022 ft.) on the east side of the Continental Divide, the site is aptly situated to investigate the chemical climate (i.e., pollution) generated along the Front Range as well as dust deposition produced and transported from the Great Basin to higher elevations. The NEON tower and corresponding TOS plots are located in a property that is owned by the National Park Service but outside of Rocky Mountain National Park’s core boundaries. TOS distributed plots are located within the Roosevelt National Forest, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The area is a popular destination for hiking, camping, shooting, and other recreational activities. The site is part of NEON's Central Plain Domain (D10), although it is physically located within the borders of NEON's Southern Rockies & Colorado Plateau Domain (D13). D10 has two other terrestrial sites and one aquatic site. The RMNP site is not colocated with an aquatic site. 
Due to elevational changes, the climate of Southern Rockies is characterized by dramatic differences in precipitation and temperature over very short distances. In general, precipitation decreases and temperature increases with a decrease in elevation. The summer months at RMNP are typically in the 20-27°C (68-80°F) range during the day and colder temperatures at night around 4°C (39°F). The higher elevation areas at the park above 2865 m (9400 ft.) can see light snow and colder temperatures during the summer. In the winter months temperatures can get as cold as -37°C (-35°F), but the lower elevation areas at RMNP typically don’t have accumulations of heavy snow. The higher elevation areas at the park tend to experience blizzards and deep snowpack. At the RMNP site, the mean annual temperature is 2.9°C (37°F) and the mean annual precipitation is 736 mm (29 in.). High winds, blizzards, and afternoon thunderstorms are common in the region.   
The geology at this site is dominated by granite and granodiorite from the Mesoproterozoic age.  
The soil order found at the Rocky Mountain National Park site is mollisol, a soil family characterized as loamy-skeletal - mixed - superactive Ustic haplocryolls. 
Open water only makes up 0.02 km2 (5 acres) or 0.03% of the total land cover at NEON's site at RMNP. Evergreen forest covers 71.28 km2 (17,614 acres) of the site which totals 90.25% of the total land cover. 
The dominant vegetation in the lower elevation areas of RMNP are characteristic of the lower montane ecosystem and include an open canopy of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), juniper (Juniperus sp.), and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Higher elevation vegetation has a tighter canopy dominated by Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta var.latifolia). Stands of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) are scattered through the landscape. 
Mammals common to this area include the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), beaver (Castor Canadensis), rocky mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis Canadensis), black bear (Ursus americanus), elk (Cervus canadensis), yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris), coyote (Canis latrans), moose (Alces alces), mountain lion (Puma concolor), pika (Ochotona princeps), and the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus). Collectively 67 mammal species are known to be native to the area. Over 270 species of birds have been reported in the national park including the white-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura), the three-toed woodpecker (Picoides Dorsalis), and the western tanager (Piranga ludoviciana). Native fish include the endangered greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) and the Colorado River cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii pleuriticus). NEON collects data at this site on small mammals, birds, mosquitoes, beetles, and ticks. Some of the target small mammal species include the red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi), the montane vole (Microtus montanus), and the North American deermouse (Peromyscus maniculatus).   
Past Land Management and Use
In the 1700s, the indigenous Ute Tribe inhabited the area now known as Rocky Mountain National Park. In 1803, the U.S. government completed the Louisiana Purchase, which included land that would later be turned into the national park. During the late 1800s a gold rush brought miners, ranchers, and homesteaders to Colorado. By the early 1900s the area was known for its beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife, and in 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park was officially named the 10th national park in the U.S. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps was created as part of President Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal." This program employed people to build roads, trails, and structures at the national park, along with wildfire mitigation and wildlife management. By the 1960s the park became extremely popular and management of visitors became a priority. Today, the park sees millions of visitors every year ranging from scientists, bird watchers, fishermen, campers, photographers, and day hikers.  
Current Land Management and Use
Land on which NEON's RMNP site sits is managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Forest Service. NPS manages 419 separate sites in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. NPS also manages national monuments, battlefields, preserves, parkways, scenic trails, and seashores. Several Universities are currently conducting research at Rocky Mountain National Park including Metropolitan State University of Denver and Colorado State University, studying topics of glacial change, noise and light pollution, biota, and ice patch archaeology and paleoecology.  
NEON Site Establishment
The TIS tower started collecting data in 2014. TOS plot establishment was completed and observational sampling was initiated in 2017.
 Terrestrial Observation System (TOS) Site Characterization Report: Domain 10. NEON.DOC.003883vB
 U.S. Geological Survey, 2005, Mineral Resources Data System: U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia. https://mrdata.usgs.gov/mrds/
 Fabian, C. (2019). NEON Site-Level Plot Summary, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), February 2019. https://data.neonscience.org/documents/10179/2361410/RMNP_Soil_SiteSumm…
 https://www.nps.gov/romo/learn/management/upload/ Final-NPS-Public-Review-Exotic-Plant-Management-EA- 11012018-508.pdf
 TOS Protocol and Procedure: Small Mammal Sampling NEON.DOC.000481
 PRISM Climate Group., Oregon State University, http://prism.oregonstate.edu, created 4 Feb 2004.
Remote sensing surveys of this field site collect lidar, spectrometer and high-resolution RGB camera data.
This site has a flux/meteorological tower that is 25 m (82 ft) tall with five measurement levels. The tower top extends above the vegetation canopy to allow sensors mounted at the top and along the tower to capture the full profile of atmospheric conditions from the top of the vegetation canopy to the ground. The tower collects physical and chemical properties of atmosphere-related processes, such as humidity, wind, and net ecosystem gas exchange. Precipitation data may be collected by a tipping bucket at the top of the tower, a Double Fence Intercomparison Reference (DFIR) near the tower, and a series of throughfalls located in the soil array.
Soil Sensor Measurements
This site has five soil plots placed in an array within the airshed of the flux tower. Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) at soil surface, soil heat flux, solar radiation, and throughfall are measured at the soil surface in each soil plot. Soil moisture, soil temperature, and CO2 concentration are measured at multiple depths in each soil plot.
At terrestrial sites, field ecologists observe birds and plants, and sample ground beetles, mosquitoes, small mammals, soil microbes, and ticks. Lab analyses are carried out to provide further data on DNA sequences, pathogens, soils, sediments, and biogeochemistry. Learn more about terrestrial observations or explore this site's data products.
Field Site Data
Roosevelt National Forest
Site Access Allowed
Site Access Details
Researchers should coordinate directly with the US Forest Service for permitting and approval.
NEON Field Operations Office
NEON Field Operations Address
1685 38th Street, Suite 100
Boulder, CO 80301
NEON Field Operations Phone
Mean Annual Temperature
Mean Annual Precipitation
Mean Canopy Height
Dominant NLCD Classes
Average number of green days
Average first greenness increase date
Average peak green date
Average first greenness decrease date
Average minimum greenness date
Number of Tower Levels
USGS Geology Unit
USGS Geology Name
Granitic rocks of 1400-m.y. age group
USGS Lithologic Constituents
Alkali-feldspar-granite and granite with Quartz-monzonite
USGS Geology Age
Megapit Soil Family
Loamy, skeletal, mixed, superactive. Ustic Haplocryolls.
Other Domain D10 Field Sites
Other Field Sites in CO