Last week Thinking Color took a trip to Nevada and since we were in the area we figured we would stop off at another colorful natural phenomenon. The Paint Mines, in El Paso County, Colorado caught our attention not just for their colorful beauty but also for their name. Some of our Color Matchers lovingly refer to our color lab here at Dorn as the “paint mines”. This coincidence gave us quite the laugh at Thinking Color.
Despite the mental image of a miner hacking away at a wall of RAL 1007 the Paint Mines in colorado are a naturally occurring geological wonder. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that Native Americans mined some of the naturally pigmented clays in the area for use in ceremonial paints. Other findings include an amazing array of pottery arrowheads and even trail routes for herding buffalo. It would appear that these ancient color experts first occupied the area 9,000 years ago.
The area itself covers 750 acres and is a maze of spirals and hoodoos, created by thousands of years of erosion. The pink, red, orange, yellow and purple geological formations are created from overlapping layers of several minerals and clays affected by the climate over the years. Most of the vivid color is the result of one of the most intense heat-waves in history. The heat wave which occurred 55 million years ago is thought to have lasted around 10,000 years. Areas that were dry before the heat wave were baked into shades of yellow and brown whereas wet areas were baked into purples, reds and pinks. When the heat wave ended the naturally occurring stream flows returned and sculpted the area into the maze of colorful caverns we see today.