this is wild country! Our hike to Granite Creek was spectacular and the creek needs further exploration. This desert, riparian ecosystem filled with mature cottonwoods, a gushing creek, lush vegetation, and Remote with a capital R makes Granite Creek "Wilderness" in our book.
Mark Schmalz, Grand Junction
Granite Creek is part of the Dolores Triangle, a remote
section of land known for superb big-game hunting and primitive
recreational opportunities throughout a range of ecosystems,
from riparian to montane, in elevations ranging from 4,500 -
contains a concentration of rare plant communities.
Although many of the communities present at the site are
relatively widespread, most are in good to fair
condition. Protection of this site would encompass a
significant representation of this ecosystem.
Division of Wildlife has identified Granite Creek as
suitable habitat for the pikeminnow, humpback chub,
Mexican spotted owl, western burro owl, southwest willow
whooping crane. There have been sightings of peregrine falcons and bald eagles. There are also existing Colorado Natural Heritage Program conservation sites for the peregrine falcon within the Granite Creek area.
This unit is comprised of two formerly separate units -- Granite Creek and Renegade Creek -- divided by a road. The Granite Creek area features a redrock sandstone canyon tributary to the Dolores River that cuts as deep as 800 feet and is highlighted with picturesque rock fins, columns, windows and buttes. The high, eastern end of the creek is relatively open and straight, but by the time it approaches its confluence with the Dolores, the stream is so serpentine that it takes seven miles to travel just three linear miles.
scenic viewpoints in this area there are spectacular
views of the Dolores and Colorado River canyons. Views
to the west include the snow-capped La Sal Mountains and
to the north the distant Bookcliff Mountains. The mesa
uplands are gentle slopes covered by aromatic pinyon-juniper
Creek flows through a lush riparian ecosystem of
cottonwoods and box elders with grasses and shrubs
growing in the flood plain and furnishing forage for
deer and elk. Trout fishing occurs in the perennial
Creek has been identified as critical winter range. The
Colorado Division of Wildlife estimates that a herd of
150-300 elk winter in the area. Black bears, mountain
lions, and bald and golden eagles also inhabit this
area. Desert bighorn sheep are found on Scharf Mesa to
the west, and the imperiled peregrine falcon nests along
the Dolores River canyon.
frequent the area for big game, due in large part to the
remoteness and inaccessibility of the region, and the
canyon is a popular day hike for Dolores River boaters.
In addition, the area is well suited to primitive
recreation opportunities, including horseback riding,
scenic viewing, day hiking, nature observation
Renegade Creek consists of mountain slopes, mesas, and a rambling creek bottom. The mesas stairstep down from Pinon Mesa and include several isolated mesas in the western part of the unit. The mountain sections vary from gentle to steep, depending upon aspect, and are forested with pinyon-juniper woodlands. The mesa tops are covered with sagebrush and mountain brush. The creek bottom is riparian, with grasses and cottonwoods.
Granite Creek has little potential for locatable minerals, according to BLM geologists and the USGS geology map of the area. In any case, the BLM would not allow surface occupancy of mineral leases on much of the area to protect the scenic cliffs and canyon. There are no oil and gas leases with the proposed wilderness. The Renegade Creek part of the unit has mining claims along the Ryan Creek Road, but no claims exist within Granite Creek.
According to the
BLM's Grand Junction Resource Management Plan, there are no
commercially viable stands of timber or pinyon-juniper woodland
within the Granite Creek WSA.
Portions of two cattle grazing allotments cover Granite Creek, one managed by the Mountain Island Ranch which is currently applying the Holistic Resource Management method. The only range improvements within the unit are a stock pond in the extreme southeast corner of the unit and a fence on the southern boundary at the state line.
use is limited to the existing roads and trails that define the
Granite Creek is a
perennial stream, draining the higher elevations of Pinyon Mesa
to the east. Several large springs in the canyon supply much of
the year-round flow. There are no water diversions on the creek.
The Granite Creek WSA boundary is marked by a circuit of
unnumbered vehicle routes that circle Granite and Renegade
Creeks, and by logical topographical features of both canyons.
The CWP boundary includes 13,800 acres in Colorado and about
12,500 acres in Utah, although the entire area is managed by the
Colorado BLM because of geography.