Thursday, December 01, 2005

The next local wilderness area

Some of you may have read in this week's Gazette about the Brown's Canyon Wilderness area taking another step forward in becoming official wilderness area. For those of you who have never been there, like me, Brown's Canyon is an accordion of dry rocky valleys running up from the Arkansas River between Buena Vista and Salida to the top of the Park Range.
It's been on the wilderness study list for years, meaning it fits the definition of a statutory wilderness by having greater than 5,000 acres, but has lacked the congressional oomph to get to the next level until now.

But what about the rest of our region? Is there more wilderness that could qualify as "Wilderness" and is only waiting for the right PR director?


All along the Arkansas Valley from Salida down there is a string of suitable places including the rough, steep washes of Grape Creek west of Canon City, MacIntyre Hills just to the north, and Badger Creek just northeast of Salida.

More important to folks in Colorado Springs is Beaver Creek, a vast jumble of hills and canyons and cliffs that drain the south side of Pikes Peak. For those of you who have never been to Beaver Creek, which I would imagine is most of you since the trails are few and rarely mentioned, make a plan to visit. It is one of the most beautifully rugged and surprising places in the area. Steep, impossibly dry hills hide deep mossy pools along strong flowing creeks. High ridges hide mountain lions, bears, deer, and maybe a bighorn sheep or two.

Beaver Creek is still a long way from becoming a state-recognized Wilderness because it has no organized group advocating for it like the folks in Salida pushed for Brown's Canyon, but it may have the best shot, judging on its own geographic merit, for becoming the area's next wilderness. When that will happen is another question.

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