The Roubideau Canyons offer grand sweeping vistas, but what makes them precious are little surprises: an outcropping riddled with holes like swiss cheese; footprints with five tiny toes by the stream; the crackling of mini-rockfalls as bighorn sheep scamper up a hillside; a rock with indentations where some ancient one ground her grain centuries ago; the pungent smell of sage after a thunderstorm; the refreshing ease of grass in the cottonwood shade by the water; your own personal art-gallery amphitheater-intimate, though ten miles long and a thousand feet deep.
Jim Riddell, Montrose
Roubideau Creek has carved one of Colorado's unique canyons. Named for French fur trapper Antoine Robidoux, the canyon originates in subalpine spruce and aspen forests high on the Uncompahgre Plateau before it flows 20 miles north to the Gunnison River. BLM's WSA encompasses the lower eight miles of this canyon as it descends into the arid desert reaches.
Recognizing the outstanding wild values of Roubideau Canyon, Congress in 1993 designated 19,650 acres in the adjacent Uncompahgre National Forest as the Roubideau Area and placed it off limits to development and motorized vehicles.
As it flows down out of the spruce and aspen forests onto BLM lands, the canyon becomes more arid, with rock buttresses, freestanding pinnacles, pinyon-juniper forest, and a meandering stream lined with cottonwoods. This striking lower desert canyon, with its brilliant red bands of Entrada Sandstone, is BLM's Camel Back WSA, so named for a large, isolated mesa between Roubideau Creek and Criswell Creek.
Roubideau Creek cuts into the Mesozoic sandstone that is draped over the dome of the Uncompahgre uplift. Dakota, Morrison, Entrada, and Chinle strata form cliffs of warm colors that tower over the lush riparian ecosystem in the canyon bottom.
Roubideau is rich in wildlife including black bear, deer, bobcat, mountain lion, and golden eagle. Bighorn sheep were reintroduced from 1991-1993 and are doing well. A great number of birds nest in the canyon, among them cliff swallows, white-throated swifts, Coopers hawks, titmice and warblers. Roubideau includes populations of the rare Grand Junction milkvetch (Astragalus linifolius), a candidate species for listing under the ESA.
Because the expanded Roubideau Wilderness spans life zones from upper Sonoran desert at 5,000 feet to subalpine at 9,500 feet, it provides a rare opportunity to preserve an ecologically diverse canyon that would greatly enrich the National Wilderness Preservation System.
BLM's Wilderness Study Area contains no commercially valuable timber or woodland resources. BLM rates the area as having extremely low potential for both energy and hardrock minerals. No mineral leases or mining claims exist within the area.
Livestock grazing occurs throughout the canyon.
BLM closed the area to motor vehicle use to protect riparian areas as well as threatened and endangered plant habitat.
Roubideau includes a single 160-acre private land inholding. This is the abandoned homestead of Ben Lowe near the National Forest/BLM boundary. Ben Lowe was a cattleman who was killed in a nearby gunfight during a cattle-sheep range war and his homestead adds historic interest to the area.
BLM's Roubideau addition lies downstream from the existing Roubideau Area which itself is below two small water developments. The state of Colorado holds no water decrees for instream flows on any of Roubideau's streams.
Citizens propose one major addition to the eastern boundary of BLM's Wilderness Study Area. The expansion takes in Potter and Monitor Creeks, and includes a bit of Uncompahgre National Forest lands. An abandoned jeep trail once separated this area from the WSA when BLM drew the original WSA boundary. Since that time, BLM has closed the heavily deteriorated jeep trail to motorized vehicles, so the Potter Creek drainage now constitutes a contiguous roadless addition to the WSA.