Demaree Canyon

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The hidden arroyos and washes of Demaree Canyon, framed by the Bookcliffs and the bluest of western Colorado skies, offer a seldom-seen wilderness. Desert grasses, Mormon tea, sage, and rabbit brush dot the steep slope, incredibly displayed in its brightest springtime green. The only sound, a distant hawk, with nothing to do all day. Demaree Canyon is Colorado as it has been for eons: wild.

Pete Kolbenschalg, Paonia

Wilderness Qualities
Demaree Canyon consists of rugged canyons featuring some of the most intricate and interesting geology of western Colorado. The winding canyons contain layers of brightly colored clays and shales with shades of red, purple, gray, and yellow that glow like fire during sunrise and sunset. Demaree Canyon's steep and broken sandstone walls rise up to high mesas covered by scattered pinyon and juniper.

The dynamic desert ecosystem of Demaree Canyon supports an abundant variety of wildlife including predators such as mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes.

The northwestern portion of this colorful area is also critical winter range for mule deer.

Demaree Canyon offers excellent opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation. Across the Grand Valley, views of the snowcapped La Sal Mountains rising above the shimmering red rock canyoncountry enhance the wilderness values of one of the few remaining roadless areas in Colorado's Bookcliffs. Due to Demaree Canyon's highly dissected topography attributable to a series of canyons and ridges that offer ample topographic screening, outstanding opportunities for wilderness solitude exist.

Demaree Canyon provides exceptional wilderness values and recreational opportunities in a unique desert environment for Grand Valley residents and visitors.

Resource Information
Potential for hardrock minerals in Demaree Canyon is nonexistent. However, oil, gas, and coal deposits do occur within the proposed wilderness. There are 24 pre-FLPMA oil and gas leases within Demaree Canyon. All of these leases are held by production occurring from wells drilled primarily on leased lands on the exterior of the proposed wilderness. Although 92% of the area has been leased in the past for development, only two wells have been drilled in the proposed wilderness. One is producible, and the other has been plugged. In any case, a portion of these leases does not allow surface occupancy in order to protect steep slopes and slumping soils.

The BLM may not issue rights-of-way across intervening federal lands to pre-FLPMA leases if such access would harm wilderness values. Development of the pre-FLPMA leases in Demaree Canyon is therefore potentially difficult and is by no means a foregone conclusion.

BLM estimates in-place coal of 277 million short tons exists within the area. This is less than 6% of the 4.893 billion short tons within just the Grand Junction Field Office Area. The area was previously leased for coal development, but the leases expired in the 1990s due to lack of interest in mining by the lessee. No coal mines have operated in the western end of the Bookcliffs in many decades.

Livestock grazing occurs on portions of the area, but most of the area is ungrazed due to its steep and rugged topography. Two grazing allotments are located in the unit.

The predominant pinyon-juniper forest is not considered to have commercial firewood potential due to the inaccessibility of the resource.

Demaree Canyon is a headwaters area with no perennial

Boundary Issues
Citizens propose several additions to BLM's WSA boundaries. An area of approximately 3,000 acres would be added on the eastern side to move the wilderness boundary to Highway 139 and East Salt Creek. This would add an abandoned vehicle route that previously marked the WSA boundary. Two cherrystemmed roads on the north boundary are also closed and returned to a wilderness condition.


demaree canyon map
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Rugged canyon in the CWP. (Mark Pearson)

Demaree Canyon's highly dissected topography.  (Mark Pearson)


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