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Happy Birthday, Colorado! On this day in 1876, Colorado became a state; we celebrate with a amazing photos from Handies Peak Wilderness Study Area - one of our favorites. 

The scenic quality of the Handies Peak Wilderness Study Area in Colorado is outstanding due to the interaction of mountainous landforms; multi-colored rock strata; diverse vegetation; and vast, open vistas. Handies Peak itself rises 14,048 feet over the area and is the highest point of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management outside of Alaska. This WSA also hosts 12 other peaks that rise over 13,000 feet, three major canyons, numerous small drainages, glacial cirques and three alpine lakes. The landscape a variety of volcanic, glacial and Precambrian formations. A rock glacier formation is also located at the head of American Basin.

This is an area perfect for hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain climbing and photography.  Guaranteed to inspire!

Photos by Bob Wick, Wilderness Specialist for BLM’s National Conservation Lands

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BLM Colorado’s Red Cloud Peak Wilderness Study Area (WSA) contains 30 mountain peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation and two peaks over 14,000 feet: Red Cloud Peak (14,034 feet) and Sunshine Peak (14,001 feet). In the upper portion of the drainages, the mountainous terrain, with its expanses of alpine tundra and open scenic vistas, projects feelings of vastness and solitude.

Lower elevations are often heavily forested and create a feeling of total seclusion. Volcanic and Precambrian rock types are intermingled and glacial geomorphology is highly evident. There are also several rock glacier formations, alpine lakes, and streams in this WSA. 

This WSA is home to many wildlife species, including Red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks, prairie falcons, doves, quail, songbirds, mule deer, gray and kit fox, rock squirrels, jackrabbits, and several reptilian species. Activities include hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain climbing, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and photography.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM

 

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Happy Wilderness Wednesday! On this day in history, President Bill Clinton signed the Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993 in to law, adding the Powderhorn and Uncompahgre wilderness areas to the National Wilderness System.

Pictured here, the Uncompahgre Wilderness in Colorado - a part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands - consists of gently rolling alpine tundra meadows, rugged, mountainous landscapes, and densely-forested canyons within the north-central San Juan Mountains. This wilderness boasts two “fourteeners” (on USFS-managed land) and more than 34 other peaks that tower over 13,000 feet in elevation. Visitors can explore over 100 miles of trails that provide excellent opportunities for various forms of recreation.

Several forks of the Cimarron River roar through the wilderness and numerous alpine lakes and streams that are scattered throughout. A few small lakes and many streams contain trout. From this wilderness are countless, breathtaking views of the San Juan Mountains.

Photo: Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist

BLM-Colorado Restores and Celebrates Historic San Juan Mountain Mining Town

Nestled high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the Animas Forks ghost town has been painstakingly restored thanks to BLM-Colorado and a host of partners. Visitors can see remnants of the once thriving town of 30 cabins and a hotel, general store, saloon and post office from the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway

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The ghost town at Animas Forks, Colorado is just below treeline at 11,800 feet in the Rocky Mountains.

BLM-Colorado Gunnison and Tres Rios field offices joined partners for the Animas Forks dedication and the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway 25th anniversary commemoration. The event celebrated the completion of the stabilization and rehabilitation of Animas Forks ghost town and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway. Both attractions are on BLM-managed lands.

"Completing the stabilization and restoration of these buildings is the highest honor we could bestow on those first hardscrabble fellows who braved the journey to find the elusive treasures of gold and silver hidden in these rugged mountains," said David Singer, restoration project manager.

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More than 50 people enjoyed the touring the Duncan House during the celebration event. In the 1870s, William Duncan, a hardrock miner, built this house and endured living about 11,000 feet in elevation for a few years.

BLM staff played key roles in several preservation projects that have recently been completed on the Alpine Loop. Over the past few years, five structures within the this alpine tundra landscape have been stabilized, including the Placer Gulch Boarding House, The Tobasco Cabin, The Golconda Boarding House and Compressor Shop, and the Mayflower Mill. The Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway provides a unique opportunity for exploring the history of the San Juan Mountains mining era, with a focus on the area in the vicinity of Ouray, Silverton and Lake City, Colorado.

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Restored buildings at Animas Forks give the public an opportunity to explore the past while enjoying the incredible views of the alpine tundra.

The project partners include the Colorado State Historical Fund, Mountain Studies Institute, Klinke & Lew Construction, the BLM, Silverton Restoration Consulting, Hinsdale County Historical Society, HistoriCorps, Silverton Restoration Consulting and Colorado Scenic Byways.

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This panoramic view shows several of the restored building at Animas Forks, a ghost town east of Silverton, Colorado. More than 400,000 visitors enjoy walking tours of the area each year.

-BLM Colorado 

The BLM-managed Powderhorn Wilderness in Colorado is found in a rugged, glacier-carved landscape of the northern reaches of the San Juan Mountains. The area consists of large expanses of alpine tundra, spruce forests, and several alpine lakes at nearly 12,000 feet in elevation. High-elevation plateaus were created by Teritary volcanic deposits, believed to be 5,000 feet thick in some areas. 

Visitors can explore more than 45 miles of trails within this area, including Powderhorn Lakes Trail, East Fork Trail, Powderhorn Park Trail, Middle Fork Trail, and Devil’s Creek Trail.  CLICK HERE to plan your adventure in this wilderness area.

Photo by Bob Wick, Wilderness Specialist for the BLM’s National Conservation Lands

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Colorado Sage-Grouse are Released into the Wild after Successful Study 

I recently had the rare opportunity to watch Colorado Parks and Wildlife release three female Gunnison Sage-grouse on Poncha Pass in northern San Luis Valley, Colorado. Grouse are typically captured at night, transported to the release site, and then released very early the next morning. But this release was different…

The three hens were five years old (grouse typically live for two to five years in the wild). They were taken from the nest as eggs and hatched in captivity as part of a captive breeding program at the USDA National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. The program studied how to raise grouse in captivity and whether chicks raised in captivity could be released successfully into the wild. The study had run its course and was not renewed due to the success of habitat restoration efforts and stable sage-grouse populations in the Gunnison Basin, so it was time for the grouse to be released. 

Before releasing the grouse, Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff collected feather samples and attached radio transmitters to the grouse. The radio transmitters are among many tools that CPW and partners, including the BLM, use to monitor the Poncha Pass population.   

-Kyle Sullivan

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