The park is situated between the towns of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and westerns slopes of the Continental Divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the Colorado River located in the northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes, the Rocky Mountain National Park Act was signed by then–President Woodrow Wilson on January 26,1915, establishing the park boundaries and protecting the area for future generations. The Civilian Conservation Corps built the main route, named Trail Ridge Road. In 1976, UNESCO designated the park as one of the first World Biosphere Reserves, in 2016, more than four and a half million recreational visitors entered the park, which is an increase of about nine percent from the prior year. The history of Rocky Mountain National Park began when Paleo-Indians traveled along what is now Trail Ridge Road to hunt, Ute and Arapaho people subsequently hunted and camped in the area. In 1820, the Long Expedition, led by Stephen H. Long for whom Longs Peak was named, approached the Rockies via the Platte River. Settlers began arriving in the mid-1800s, displacing the Native Americans who mostly left the area voluntarily by 1860, lulu City, Dutchtown, and Gaskill in the Never Summer Mountains were established in the 1870s when prospectors came in search of gold and silver. The boom ended by 1883 with miners deserting their claims, the railroad reached Lyons, Colorado in 1881 and the Big Thompson Canyon Road—a section of U. S. Route 34 from Loveland to Estes Park—was completed in 1904. The 1920s saw a boom in building lodges and roads in the park, prominent individuals in the effort to create a national park included Enos Mills from the Estes Park area, James Grafton Rogers from Denver, and J. Horace McFarland of Pennsylvania. The national park was established on January 26,1915, Precambrian metamorphic rock formed the core of the North American continent during the Precambrian eon 4. 5–1 billion years ago. During the Paleozoic era, western North America was submerged beneath a sea, with a seabed composed of limestone. Concurrently, in the period from 500–300 million years ago, the region began to sink while lime, eroded granite produced sand particles that formed strata—layers of sediment—in the sinking basin. About 300 million years ago, the land was uplifted creating the ancestral Rocky Mountains, fountain Formation was deposited during the Pennsylvanian period of the Paleozoic era, 290–296 million years ago. Over the next 150 million years, the uplifted, continued to erode. Wind, gravity, rainwater, snow, and glacial ice eroded the mountains over geologic time scales. The Ancestral Rockies were eventually buried under subsequent strata, the Pierre Shale formation was deposited during the Paleogene and Cretaceous periods about 70 million years ago. The region was covered by a deep sea—the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway—which deposited massive amounts of shale on the seabed
View from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
View from Many Parks Curve on Trail Ridge Road. The "parks" in the Rockies are meadows that formed when glacial lakes drained.