Clad in an electric red hazmat suit, black rubber boots, and a respirator, the life-size “Cold War Horse” sculpture stands guard over the former site of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, one of the largest in the U.S., producing over 70,000 plutonium triggers for nuclear bombs between 1951 and 1989.
The sculpture was installed along Highway 72 northwest of Denver as a memorial to the people who worked at Rocky Flats and those who lived in the surrounding community. It was created by artist Jeff Gipe, whose father worked at the plant for 20 years.
While in operation, a series of environmental disasters—including fires, leaks, and unregulated burying of radioactive waste—led to the widespread contamination of the 6,500-acre site. In 1989, the FBI and the EPA raided the plant, shutting it down, and putting an end to nearly 40 years of unmitigated pollution.
However, an air of secrecy during and after the cleanup has caused many groups and individuals throughout the Front Range to doubt the efficacy of the remediation efforts and the health impact on the surrounding area. Community watchdog groups consistently publish reports updating the pollution levels around the site and urge developers, homeowners, and prospective homeowners to educate themselves about the potential dangers of living and building in the area.
The Cold War Horse sculpture stands not just as a memorial of the dark and secretive history of Rocky Flats, but as a stark warning of the possible contamination still present in the soil, air, and waters surrounding the former Superfund site. First erected in 2015, the sculpture was torn down and badly vandalized by unknown assailants just two weeks later. The artist was not deterred however; Cold War Horse was repaired and now resides in the same spot, surrounded by a fence, lights, and cameras armed with motion sensors.
Know Before You Go
The sculpture is located on the south side of Highway 72, just west of Indiana St, near the Candelas development. It is possible to pull off the highway at the site, but there is no parking area.