Big Ridge is a mysterious place where a wanderer can disappear
into countless meandering draws which lie beneath the looming
ridge to the east. I love walking through the Big Ridge area and
finding ancient sites of the Fremont culture including
petroglyphs and stone granaries, expecting to come across
another fantastic discovery around every corner.
Covered by a patchwork of pinyon-juniper woodland and semi-desert
shrubland, Big Ridge rises above an array of attendant hills,
remote and indifferent. A series of drainages dissects the
ridge, falling steeply at first, then winding placidly through
flat-bottomed draws of terraced sandstone before finally joining
Douglas Creek. To the southwest, Oil Spring Mountain and Texas
Mountain swell beneath green mantles of pinyon pine and one-seed
juniper; to the southeast, the stunning Cathedral Bluffs draw a
firm line across the horizon.
The blended ecosystems host a variety of animal species, including mountain lions and coyotes, deer, rattlesnakes, golden eagles, blue-gray gnatcatchers, and American kestrels. Mountain-mahogany, bitterbrush, Junegrass, and Indian ricegrass shelter cottontail rabbits, collared and side-blotched lizards, and pinyon mice. In spring and early summer, a blush of color spreads through the sageland, as paintbrush, arrowleaf balsamroot, and prickly pear bloom. In addition to this abundance of flora and fauna, the unit contains part of the Piceance Basin Wild Horse Management Area where a small herd of wild horses roam freely. Opportunities for horse viewing and photography are excellent, and the lack of roads within the unit ensures a solitary experience. Hunting, backpacking, and scenic viewing opportunities are also quite good. The possibility of stumbling across one of the area's many Fremont Culture archaeological sites adds a touch of mystery and suspense.
Several archaeological sites developed for the public use are located along the eastern boundary. Other archeological sites are as yet undiscovered, but many are believed to exist. Both the recognized and potential archeological value of the area, along with the unit's proximity to the Canyon Pintado National Historic District, firmly establishes the unit within a historical and archaeological signifigance of the area.
Big Ridge was inventoried by the BLM in the late 1970's under the name Philadelphia Creek Study Area but was not recommended for wilderness designation because the unit's vegetation, steep slopes and configuration did not appear to provide sufficiant opportunity for solitude and unconfined recreation. In 2000, citizens inventoried Big Ridge and determined that the area does have wilderness qualities; the dissected landscape provides outstanding opportunities for solitude and the flat-bottomed draws marvelous potential for unconfined recreation.
There are no active or planned mining operations in Big
Ridge, no planned dams or water diversions, and no anticipated
major road construction. However, the unit is partially leased
for gas production, and there are active grazing allotments
within the unit.
Motorized recreation in the area is designated open May 1st through September 30th, and is limited to existing routes October 1st through April 30th. Although there are no planned timber sales or other logging activities, some small amounts of wood, mostly juniper and cedar, may be removed from the land for use in furniture making, as posts and poles, and as firewood.
The western boundary of the unit traces State Highway 139 along the bottom of West Douglas Creek Valley, excluding pipelines and other gas drilling impacts, to Philadelphia Creek Road (128 RD) which, along with associated gas drilling roads, forms the southern boundary. Several active gas wells are cherrystemmed before the boundary turns north and runs along private property lines and BLM road 1040 at the top of Big Ridge to form the eastern boundary. The northern boundary follows portions of roads 138 and 135 and another unnumbered route at the top of the ridge back to Highway 39.
>> detailed map
Big Ridge CWP contains many
Fremont Culture archaeological sites and
A series of drainages dissects Big Ridge
Semidesert shrubland makes up part of
the Big Ridge CWP.