BAILEY, Colo. (AP) — A group of gnarled, twisted trees in the foothills southwest of Denver is generating different opinions on how the branches and trunks got their strange appearance. The Association for Native American Sacred Trees and Places says the trees were modified by tribes and marked sites like water sources, sacred healing spots, and hunting lookouts. The Colorado Sun reports the group fears the trees will be chopped down because their significance is largely unrecognized. But Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribal officials say no evidence of shaped trees is found in their oral traditions, and some archaeologists point to nature to account for the trees’ twists and turns.

Janet Shown, front left, co-founder of NASTaP, or Association for Native American Sacred Trees and Places, leads a public tour of culturally-modified trees on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, near Glen Isle Resort in Bailey, Colo. (Olivia Sun/The Colorado Sun via AP)