Grand Hogback

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After crossing an open field, I entered into an ancient juniper forest with the juniper trees rising over me. Then the forest opened below an incredible arch. The view from the arch spans over the valley below, from where I entered, across to the Roan Plateau.

Gail Reagan, Rifle


Wilderness Qualities
Rising along the monocline that borders the White River Plateau, the Grand Hogback is a geological treasure box, a 70-mile-long, S-shaped spine of Mesa Verde Formation sandstone flanked by steep, deeply incised ridges. The sandstone that comprises the Grand Hogback is approximately 6,000 feet thick and represents rapid and abundant sedimentation along a sandy coastline, where numerous marshes and swamps collected plant material that has since become coal. Sandstones of the Mesa Verde Group and Wasatch Formation comprise the up-thrust beds of the Grand Hogback. The Wasatch Formation's white sandstone is carved into badlands and fantastic teepee-shaped mounds along the CWP unit's western edge.

A series of seven peaks crown the Grand Hogback's abrupt central ridgeline, ranging in elevation from the 9,196 foot Monument Peak to an unnamed 7,710-foot prominence in the southeastern portion. The lowest elevations hover around 6,000 feet along the southeastern border.

In the southwest, Rifle Arch, a thick span of Mesa Verde sandstone, frames a cliff face pocked by honeycomb weathering. To the left of the arch, fins of stones stand out from the base of the cliff, as if calving into the pinyon-juniper pygmy forest below.

The view west looks out over mixed pinyon-juniper woodland that gives way to semi-desert shrubland as the elevation declines to the drapery-like escarpment of the Roan Plateau.

Red tail hawks and golden eagles nest in the rocks and cliffs of the unit, and deer, elk, and black bear roam the steep hillsides, providing opportunities for wildlife viewing, photography, and hunting. Hiking and scenic viewing are also popular in the area, with many spectacular vistas opening from the ridge.

The Grand Hogback provides outstanding wildlife habitat. The area has long been identified as a priority area for reintroduction of bighorn sheep. In 1983, the Colorado Division of Wildlife completed a formal proposal for reintroduction, and in comments to BLM on the Glenwood Springs RMP, CDOW noted the area as its #1 priority for bighorn sheep reintroduction in the region: "The Hogback release site is the number one priority for bighorn sheep transplants for the northwest region of the DOW." In addition, the northern half of the CWP serves as crucial winter range for elk, and the western and southern flanks of the unit comprise crucial winter range for deer.

Resource Information
Livestock grazing on portions of nine allotments.

There is no commercial timber.

Oil and gas leasing has occurred within the area.

Grand Hogback is open to motorized vehicles, but the area's dramatic topography severely limits the ability of vehicles to move off established roads. Grand Hogback is a headwaters area.

Boundary Issues
The citizens' boundary is drawn out to Rifle Gap and the state Highway 13. On the northern edge of the unit, several radio towers are excluded and the access road to those towers defines a portion of the boundary. The north boundary is generally drawn along contour lines and the base of the steep slopes to exclude 'brush beatings' which appear on the landscape as linear patters of alternating sage brush and grasses. The southern boundary is drawn along steep slopes and contour lines to exclude the uranium mill tailings remedial site and a series of chainings. The east boundary follows private land along West Rifle Creek.


grand hogback
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Rifle Arch.  (Kurt Kunkle)


The sandstone that comprises the Grand Hogback is approximately 6,000 feet thick.  (Todd Patrick)

The Grand Hogback provides outstanding wildlife habitat.  (Todd Patrick)


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