Cow Ridge looms precipitously above the wide floor of the Roan Creek valley, rising almost 3,000 feet to an elevation of 8,200 feet. Verdant, heavily forested glades slope down to stands of thick-trunked sage. A creek turns through meadows flecked with wildflowers and supports communities of bittercress, willow,
The view south looks
out on Horse Mountain and South Shale Ridge, with the Roan
Cliffs and Grand Mesa flanking to the southeast; to the north,
Kimball Mountain displays fluted columns of pale sandstone that
buttress sheer cliffs and an ancient pinyon-juniper woodland.
Just over the Cow Ridge boundary stands Castle Rock, a yellow
sandstone spire that rises prominently above the surrounding fir
opportunities for backpacking, horseback riding, bird watching,
and hunting exist throughout the unit, but are of particularly
high quality in the many narrow draws that transect the ridge.
With its proximity
to the quickly developing Grand Valley and its outstanding
opportunities for solitude and unconfined hiking, backpacking,
and hunting, the value of Cow Ridge as a designated wilderness
area is incalculable.
Bald eagles frequent
Cow Ridge. River otter may occur in nearby Kimball Creek and Dry
Fork. Cow Ridge provides suitable habitat for burrowing owls,
which have been observed in the vicinity of the CWP unit. Four
globally rare plants are found in Cow Ridge. Uinta Basin
hookless cactus (Sclerocactus glaucus) is a
federally-listed plant species along with Debeque phacelia (Phacelia
scopulina var. submutica), also a candidate for listing. They are all regional endemics and, with the exception of S. glaucus, they are all also Colorado endemics (meaning they occur nowhere other than in Colorado).
Cow Ridge was
inventoried by the BLM in 1980 and was not recommended for
wilderness status because the BLM found it lacked outstanding
opportunities for solitude and primitive and unconfined
recreation. According to the BLM inventory, the narrow
configuration of the unit, its steeply sloped hillsides and
flat-topped ridges, and a lack of screening vegetation force
users into close proximity and make seclusion from the sights
and sounds of others difficult. Citizens disagreed, however. In
inventories, citizens found that the vegetation and varied
topography do indeed allow for solitude, as well as outstanding
opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation.
The rolling meadows and sagebrush along Cow Ridge's summit
receive the bulk of the area's grazing use.
Cow Ridge is open to
motorized recreation, but the area's imposing escarpment and
lack of public access from the perimeter roads means little
actual vehicular recreation occurs at present.
A number of oil and gas leases exist within Cow Ridge.
Cow Ridge's southern boundary follows County Road 222 and private property boundaries. The eastern portion of the southern boundary follows an unnumbered oil and gas road and excludes the gas drilling impacts. The western boundary follows an unnumbered vehicle route that climbs to the top of Cow Ridge. The northern boundary follows private property boundaries along County Road 202. A road is cherrystemmed to a private property, also excluded from the unit. The eastern boundary follows private property along county road 204.