THE GREATER DINOSAUR WILDERNESS
- Dinosaur's Viewshed
- Where the Deer and the Antelope Play
- The Utah Wilderness Coalition Proposal
- DINOSAUR ADJACENT UNITS
- WILD MOUNTAIN
- DIAMOND BREAKS UNIT
- COLD SPRINGS MOUNTAIN
The Greater Dinosaur wilderness consists of six units totalling more than 120,000 acres (of which 21,100 acres lie in Utah). When combined with recommended National Park Service wilderness within the national monument, upwards of 300,000 acres of de facto wilderness can be found in this outpost of the Colorado Plateau. The Greater Dinosaur wilderness includes four BLM WSAs -- Bull Canyon, Cold Springs Mountain, Daniels Canyon, and Diamond Breaks -- and two other roadless areas, Moonshine Draw and Wild Mountain. Daniels Canyon and Moonshine Draw are entirely within Utah; the rest straddle the Utah-Colorado border and were studied by the Colorado State Office of the BLM.
Dinosaur's ViewshedThe boundaries of Dinosaur National Monument were drawn to include only the primary features of the Green and Yampa River canyons. As a result, many of the spectacular vistas from the monument's many scenic overlooks are outside of the monument, on unprotected BLM roadless lands. For example, the skyline to the north from the Harpers Corner and Echo Park overlooks is dominated by Wild Mountain, a proposed wilderness on the monument's north boundary. The Park Service picnic area and scenic viewpoint at Plug Hat Rock, north of Dinosaur, Colorado, overlooks the Bull Canyon WSA. Beyond the Josie Morris Cabin at the end of the Cub Creek road, Daniels Canyon continues up onto the Yampa Plateau.
Approaching the northernmost end of the monument, at the Gates of Lodore, one confronts a rugged, dark mountain range that rises high above the Browns Park plain. These are the mountains of Diamond Breaks. They fill the western horizon from the Zenobia Peak lookout within the monument, and the low shield of Cold Springs Mountain rises to the north across Browns Park.
The BLM wild lands that ring the monument, blanketing every approach and filling every vista, are crucial to the experience of the visitors to Dinosaur. They create the wild context for Dinosaur and are magnificent wildernesses in their own right.
Where the Deer and the Antelope PlayWhereas the wilderness within Dinosaur National Monument is rugged terrain with great vertical relief, the proposed BLM wildernesses such as Diamond Breaks and Cold Springs Mountain contain broad valleys more suitable for big game habitat. Much of Diamond Breaks is considered critical winter range for both deer and elk, while Beaver Creek within Cold Springs is home to 30 reintroduced bighorn sheep. The two areas have deer population densities ranging from 6 to 12 deer per square mile. In recognition of the outstanding big game hunting opportunities present, the Colorado Division of Wildlife intends to manage Cold Springs Mountain for trophy-quality hunting by limiting access and restricting licenses.
The Utah Wilderness Coalition ProposalWe propose 21,100 acres of wilderness in Utah's portion of the six units composing the Greater Dinosaur wilderness. Three small units are contiguous with the Dinosaur National Monument boundary, as is the larger Diamond Breaks unit. Cold Springs Mountain and Bull Canyon offer protection for representative landscapes to the north and south of Dinosaur, respectively. All six units enhance the wilderness setting of Dinosaur National Monument by protecting either the highlands above the rugged canyons of the monument or prominent vistas from the monument. Most of these units lie at least partly within Colorado, and two lie mostly within Colorado; they are described here with emphasis on their Utah portions. Designation of the Greater Dinosaur wilderness units will ensure that the wild nature of flagship units of the National Park System, such as Dinosaur, is not lost amidst clutter and development on their boundaries.
DINOSAUR ADJACENT UNITS
[Daniels Canyon, Moonshine Draw, and Bull Canyon]
HighlightsThese units lie on the southern boundary of Dinosaur National Monument. They offer spectacular sandstone canyons and scenic high plateaus with views of the Green River. Daniels Canyon may be reached from either an existing trailhead within Dinosaur National Monument at the Josie Morris Cabin or from the monument's Harpers Corner access road atop Blue Mountain. Moonshine Draw can be reached via several dirt roads leading west from the Harpers Corner access road, nearly opposite the Echo Park road turnoff, or along Ruple Ridge, also starting from the access road. Bull Canyon can be reached from the Park Service's Plug Hat Rock picnic area on the rim of the upper canyon.
Geology and landformsDaniels Canyon has cut near-vertical walls through the massive Weber Sandstone, dropping between 900 and 1600 feet below the rim of the canyon. There are dramatic panoramic views from the highest points of the unit atop Blue Mountain. Moonshine Draw contains a high plateau and steep canyons with scenic vistas of the Green River before it reaches Split Mountain. Bull Canyon is intricately carved through the spectacular geologic formations found in the adjacent monument, such as green and purple Morrison shales and deep vermillion Triassic shale and sandstone.
Plant communitiesThe units are largely covered by sagebrush, mountain mahogany, and serviceberry intermixed with pinyon-juniper forest. There are small stands of ponderosa pine at the highest elevations of the Daniels Canyon unit on Blue Mountain. The canyon bottoms contain patches of riparian habitat such as box elder and, in shady places, Douglas fir. The lower flats of the Bull Canyon unit are covered with sage, saltbush, greasewood, and grasses. Ancient stands of pinyon pine in the Bull Canyon unit have been studied by researchers at the University of Arizona, who have applied the results of tree-ring chronology to studies of climatic variability in North America.
WildlifeMule deer and mountain lions frequent the units. Nearly all of Bull Canyon is critical winter range for mule deer. Some sage grouse are found at the higher elevations. Golden and bald eagles as well as peregrine falcons have been sighted in the area.
Archeology and historyDaniels Canyon contains numerous rockshelters, cliff dwellings, and storage pit ruins. There are 82 recorded archeological sites in the vicinity of the unit, most of which date to the Fremont period. The historic Josie Morris Ranch in Dinosaur National Monument is at the trailhead to Daniels Canyon. A documented campsite of the 1776 Dominguez-Escalante expedition is located in Bull Canyon as well as a segment of the proposed National Historic Trail following the expedition's route.
RecreationAn existing trail runs from the Josie Morris Ranch to the head of Daniels Canyon. Day hikes are possible throughout the length of the canyon. Bull Canyon's easy accessibility along the Dinosaur National Monument entrance road makes it ideal for day hikes, birdwatching, and photography. Horseback riding and deer and grouse hunting are common uses of all three units.
BLM recommendationThe BLM designated a small 2,545-acre WSA in Daniels Canyon and a 12,297-acre WSA in Bull Canyon. The Colorado BLM recommended Bull Canyon as suitable for wilderness, whereas the Utah BLM, which studied Daniels Canyon, recommended against wilderness designation for that unit. Moonshine Draw was not designated a WSA and was not studied. During the wilderness inventory for Daniels Canyon, the BLM failed to draw boundaries that included all natural areas and excluded impacted areas. The WSA boundary bisected slickrock canyons and striking badlands cliffs, following mining claims that had small, largely reclaimed impacts. The resulting small size of the Daniels Canyon WSA, plus state-owned inholdings and private lands, led the BLM to recommend against wilderness.
Coalition proposalWe propose a total of 9,300 acres of wilderness for these three units (Utah portion), with an additional 12,500 acres in Colorado. Our boundaries, unlike some of the BLM's, follow the edges of man-made impacts. In Bull Canyon, our proposal conforms to natural, easily identifiable topographic features such as hogbacks and creek beds. Only 500 acres of Bull Canyon fall within Utah. In Daniels Canyon we recommend a 5,300-acre wilderness with boundaries that follow the edges of man-made impacts. All of this unit lies within Utah. Our 3,500-acre Moonshine Draw unit, also located entirely within Utah, excludes impacts associated with livestock grazing such as corrals and fences. We recommend exchange of state lands to consolidate public ownership. The contiguity of these units to a much larger surrounding wilderness in Dinosaur National Monument gives them added significance.
HighlightsWild Mountain straddles the Colorado-Utah state line on the western boundary of Dinosaur National Monument. Wild Mountain is the ridge that rises high above the Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery and dominates the view from the Harpers Corner overlook within the national monument. In the context of the larger Dinosaur area wilderness, this unit lies several miles south of Diamond Breaks. Any development or road construction on Wild Mountain, such as might occur given the BLM's support for oil and gas leasing of the area, would be highly visible to park visitors. The mountain is covered largely by grasses and sagebrush, with scattered stands of aspen along the base of its northern slopes. Deer and elk may be found here, and raptors grace the skies above. Our proposed boundary for Wild Mountain generally encompasses the BLM's roadless area as identified during the wilderness inventory and adjacent state lands. The unit covers about 5,700 acres, of which about 600 are in Utah. The Colorado BLM did not recommend the unit for wilderness designation.
DIAMOND BREAKS UNIT
HighlightsDiamond Breaks consists of the semiarid, dissected mountains on the western boundary of Dinosaur National Monument. The unit straddles the Colorado-Utah state line, with 7,800 acres located within Utah. The unit is adjacent to both the National Monument and to Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge, sharing a common boundary for over 20 miles. Diamond Breaks creates an extended, all-encompassing ecosystem when considered in conjunction with the canyons and floodplain of the Green River through Browns Park and Dinosaur National Monument, offering recreation ranging from whitewater boating deep within the canyons to rockclimbing and ridge hiking high above the canyon rims. The unit is easily accessible from Colorado Highway 318 as it traverses Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge. A wildlife refuge primitive campground along the Green River at the Swinging Bridge on the northern edge of Diamond Breaks provides an excellent starting point for hikes into the area.
Geology and landformsDiamond Breaks gets its name from the breaks in Diamond Mountain carved by Hoy, Chokecherry, Davis, and other creeks as they drain into the Green River. Local lore has it that Diamond Mountain itself was named after the exploits of a shyster in the late 1800s who planted diamonds on the mountain and lured unsuspecting Eastern investors into parting with their money in a get-rich-quick diamond mining scheme. Of course, the con-man departed the region soon after, with money in hand and nary a diamond to be found on "Diamond Mountain." Diamond Breaks is distinctive for the variety of its topography. Ridges and peaks rise to 8,700 feet in abrupt contrast to the gentle plain of Brown's Park. The rugged mountains of Diamond Breaks are broken by open draws, complementing the Green River's mighty Canyon of Lodore in adjacent Dinosaur National Monument.
Plant communitiesA majestic, gnarled ponderosa pine forest covers the southern edge of the area, growing out of bare rock in many places. The open draws and hillsides are a virtual rainbow of color in early spring as flowers of every shade burst forth among the sagebrush. Lovely stands of aspen also are found in the draws. The higher peaks and ridges are covered with pinyon and juniper.
WildlifeThe area is rich in wildlife such as mule deer, elk, black bear, and mountain lion. Diamond Breaks provides critical deer winter range and encompasses a major portion of the range for a herd of 250-300 elk. Antelope roam the lower valleys near the wildlife refuge.
Archeology and historyDiamond Breaks has a high potential for significant archeological finds. Granaries, petroglyphs, and widespread lithic scatters dating to the Fremont era have been recorded in the area. There are rumors of wickiups as well.
RecreationDiamond Breaks provides a remote and rugged setting for outdoor activities, including hiking, hunting, and birding. Spectacular panoramic views are found from atop the ridges and peaks of Diamond Breaks, taking in the snow-capped peaks of the Uintas, Flat Tops, and Zirkel Range, the Green River plain, the Canyon of Lodore, and gentle Cold Springs Mountain.
BLM recommendationThe BLM has recommended 36,240 acres for wilderness designation (mostly in Colorado), an increase over its 35,380-acre WSA. The BLM proposes to add 1,500 acres on the north side of the unit in the vicinity of Chokecherry, Yellow Jacket, and Warren Draws. This addition adds low-elevation sagebrush plains along the breaks of Diamond Mountain, bringing the wilderness boundary up to the boundary of the National Wildlife Refuge. The agency recommends closure to ORV recreation use of one road along the river. Traditional use by livestock operators would be allowed to continue.
Coalition proposalWe propose wilderness designation for 7,800 acres within Utah. We include a major drainage between Allen and Marshall Draws that was left out of the BLM proposal. This 3.5-mile-long drainage consists of flower-covered meadows and dense thickets, surrounded with ridges capped by rock outcrops which afford unrestricted views of the three-state region. Douglas fir and aspen hug the northern slopes of the ridges, creating unexpected forest glens in the midst of this semi-arid region. Inclusion of this drainage would provide currently lacking easy access into Diamond Breaks from the west side.
COLD SPRINGS MOUNTAIN
HighlightsCold Springs Mountain is located immediately north of Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge. Over 50,000 acres of wilderness lands (3,400 acres within Utah) straddle the state line along the east-west trending summit of Cold Springs Mountain. Cold Springs Mountain is directly across Browns Park from the Diamond Breaks WSA. The two areas together frame one of the region's most remote and undeveloped fertile valleys. Cold Springs Mountain is easily accessible from Colorado Highway 318 as it traverses Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge. The Matt Trail and the Beaver Creek drainage provide routes to the top of the mountain. Alternatively, dirt roads turning west off of Highway 430 through Irish Canyon can be used to reach the top of the mountain.
Geology and landformsCold Springs Mountain encompasses the southern flank of the 8,200-foot-high O-wi-yu-kuts Plateau as it drops to 5,800 feet in Brown's Park along the Green River. The mountain is the eastern extension of the Unita Mountain uplift. Numerous springs surface on top of the mountain amidst glades of aspen, giving the mountain its name. Multiple drainages and canyons cut through the distinctive horizontally bedded pink and dark red Precambrian rocks of Cold Springs Mountain.
Plant communitiesThe northern, or higher, side of Cold Springs Mountain has rolling grass and sagebrush covered hills with intermittent stands of pinyon-juniper and aspen.
WildlifeThe many springs in the unit support large numbers of elk, deer, and antelope. The unit harbors one of the largest mountain lion populations in the region and an array of smaller creatures including bobcats, foxes, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, grouse, and prairie chickens. Beaver Creek, a permanent stream that supports a population of threatened cutthroat trout, has cut a dramatic canyon in the western end of the mountain, creating a rich riparian habitat. A herd of 30 reintroduced bighorn sheep thrive along Beaver Creek. Just east of the Matt Trail are Big Joe and Little Joe Basins, open parks in the forest that support both wildlife and cattle grazing. Both parks have been identified as important big game winter range.
Archeology and historyEvidence of prehistoric cultures is scattered throughout the unit. Although this cultural resource has never been inventoried, there have been a number of significant amateur finds. The Matt Trail climbs from the valley floor, through dense pinyon-juniper forest, to the mountain crest. This trail traces its origins to the colorful days when cattle barons and rustlers dominated the region and is named after Matt Rash, a principal figure in those times.
RecreationCold Springs Mountain is understandably very popular with big game hunters given its abundant herds of deer, elk, and antelope. The Colorado Division of Wildlife owns a large amount of land on the crest of the mountain, along the boundary of the proposed wilderness. Hunting is a boon to the regional economy of northwest Colorado and northeast Utah.
BLM recommendationThe BLM has proposed that none of its 17,682-acre WSA be designated wilderness.
Coalition proposalOur proposal covers 3,400 acres in Utah (the western part of the mountain). We add 700 acres to the WSA in the upper reaches of Beaver Creek canyon along the state line, including the steep upper canyon walls and valuable riparian habitat they enclose. This creates a logical topographic boundary as opposed to the WSA's boundary along section lines.