Slide-Rock Bolter

February 5, 2016
Cliff Palace Tour
Cliff Palace Tour
February 5, 2016

SlideRockBolterWereWooFSColorado has had a history with strange, mysterious beasts. It’s not a surprise that large reptiles have always been part of this land’s lore, given that Colorado is home to a good chunk of fossils, some never seen before in other parts of the world. In addition to this, the wild and untamed lands have an undisputed air of majesty, as well as mystery. It is almost unearthly how stunning some of this state’s landscapes can be. Yet for all its beauty, there are many rural areas that are plagued with unexplainable happenings, some even resulting in deaths.

One of the tales Colorado is most infamous for is its history of “living dinosaurs”. Residents of Pagosa Springs have long told tales of bipedal lizard-creatures that look like small t-rexes. There was even a picture circulating of a ragged-looking fellow holding up a dead one, though it is generally thought to fake. There are other stories, however, to support the idea of the giant lizards roaming the area.

A woman by the name of Myrtle Snow came forward in 1982 to tell a story from 1935, when she was three or four years old. She told interviewers that the first time she saw them was in her own yard. There were five in all, she all she could really remember was that she was fairly certain that they were babies. Later, a few weeks to a month after her first sighting, something started attacking the farmers’ sheep and other livestock. It wasn’t long before her grandfather, who lived nearby, called them all over to see the one he had killed on his property. She remembered this one clearly, describing it as gray with a blunt sound and a snakelike face. Its front feet were short, she said they resembled chicken feet, but the beast was nearly seven feet tall.

Indeed, there are many tales of campers and bikers coming across these living dinosaurs. Generally the ones spotted ranged between three and six feet tall, but there have been a few stories circulating of much larger ones, up to twelve or fourteen feet. While the encounters with these behemoths were generally distressing, there are few, if any, stories of someone losing a life to one. Perhaps this is because the beasts viewed the farmers’ livestock as easier prey than the farmers themselves.

These sightings have grown scarce as time has gone on, but strange lizards are still seen throughout southwest Colorado. In recent times these sightings have been of much smaller creatures, two to three feet from nose to tail and elusive and quick. They are mainly seen around trails near streams and other sources of water, described as green-gray with three dark stripes running across their backs, sometimes bony ridges protrude over their eyes. Many times they have been mistaken for birds due to their quick, graceful movements. Because of their swiftness, there are no pictures of them that are not blurry or zoomed in too far to tell what the focus of the picture was, but the numerous sightings point to either a living dinosaur or a new species of lizard.

There are many cryptids that are dismissed as legend and silliness that actually turn out to be real animals, such as the Chupacabra, which turned out to be an ugly, hairless breed of dog, and the okapi, which was once believed to be some sort of African unicorn. Heck, even the platypus was thought to be made up when explorers of Australia first discovered it. Face of a duck and tail of a beaver? It sure sounds like something make-believe. Yet with painstaking effort by scientists and cryptozoologists, all of these creatures were effectively tracked down and solid proof was put forth to the scientific community. It is quite possible that the living dinosaurs roaming the Colorado waterways are simply a species of beast that we have yet to fully discover. There are people out there right now striving to capture the little lizards.

In addition to these walking, breathing fossils, Colorado is home to one of the strangest cryptids ever to be rumored to walk the earth, one that is probably impossible for cryptid hunters to catch or find or even find. The Slide-Rock Bolter is a creature that has lore going back to the nineteenth century, predating the living dinosaur sightings. This odd creature is said to be the size of a blue whale, with a teardrop-shaped body and a broad, flattish face split apart by an ugly, scowling mouth. It has small eyes and its dolphin-like tail is said to have two hooks, which it uses to anchor itself on or around the top of mountains, where it waits for unsuspecting prey.

What is this massive mountain-slider’s prey, you ask? Tourists.

Yes, you read right. Tourists.

The Slide-Rock Bolter is a people-eater. Once it has human prey in its sights, it unhooks its tail from the rocks and allows itself to skid down at alarming velocities to gobble up its unsuspecting victims. The meals take no more than a few seconds, as a human is hardly a mouthful to the Bolter, and once it has its prey entrapped in its jaws, the momentum carries it back up the side of another mountain. It then arranges itself so that it can plunge down for its next victim, leaving flattened trees and scoured ground in its wake.

Despite the paths it leaves being so blatantly obvious, it is said that the Slide-Rock Bolter is a master of camouflage and cannot be seen once it is in hiding. Some say its grayish-brown skin allows it to pass off as nothing more than a fat, smooth rock, but others say that instead of being smooth, the creature’s skin is peppered with scraggy, brush-like growths that further conceal it from searching eyes. It is speculated to be cold-blooded and to have a very slow metabolism, surviving on no more than ten or so tourists a year. Hardcore believers think that humans are not the beast’s only source of food, thinking maybe bears, deer, and other large mammals might make up the bulk of the creature’s diet.

Only once did someone try to outsmart this creature. A forest ranger in 1900 spotted the Bolter resting atop Lizzard Head. Thinking that he could get rid of the creature once and for all, he made a dummy out of straw and men’s clothing, filling it with fulminate caps and other poisonous or explosive materials. He posted his dummy somewhere outside of the town of Rico and retreated a good distance away to watch. It took a long time, but the Bolter finally caught sight of the dummy and went for the bait. Unfortunately, the ranger didn’t grasp the full scope of the creature’s girth, and it took half the town along with the dummy. The town never fully recovered.

The Slide-Rock Bolter seems like a creature too massive and fantastic to exist, especially given the fact that it has not really ever been seen by a living person. Stories of the Bolter have been passed down from generation to generation starting in times before electricity and running water were common luxuries. It is very possible that this creature is purely anecdotal, meaning that people only used the stories as a means to warn and raise awareness in areas where rockslides and avalanches are common. One would think the thought of being crushed by thousands of pounds of dirt and rock would be horrifying enough.

It is interesting to note, though, that this creature is the only one of its kind mentioned in any lore. The Slide-Rock Bolter is only mentioned in Colorado, despite the very same mountain chain extending far past the state’s borders. Stories of dragons, lizardmen, and Bigfoot can all be found no matter where in the world you travel. But this one, this land-whale that preys on noisy tourists, this is a legend entirely unique to one state. Congratulations, Colorado.

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