It is possible to find solitude, even in a busy
city, but finding an area so untouched by man
is rare. There has never been a motorized
vehicle on this Mesa. We need to keep it that
John Baldus, Montrose
Isolated from development and most human activity by a fortress-like bastion of high, almost impregnable cliffs, Sewemup Mesa is one of the most ecologically pristine areas in western Colorado. Since most of the mesa has never been grazed by livestock, it provides a rare example of an ecosystem largely undisturbed by human activity. This makes Sewemup Mesa a veritable Shangri-la for scientists and naturalists seeking a glimpse of untouched wilderness. For example, in 1988 scientists discovered one grass species identified for the first time in all of Colorado, and two grasses never before seen in western Colorado.
A striking band of thousand-foot-high cliffs of Wingate Sandstone encircles more than 75% of Sewemup Mesa. These cliffs rise out of the slickrock gorge of the Dolores River on the east, and to the west they tower above Sinbad Valley, the remnants of a collapsed salt dome. Domes of pink-banded Entrada Sandstone dot the top of the mesa, breaking the sloping landscape of pinyon-juniper forest. Many huge ponderosa pines line the canyons of the mesa top and grow directly from sandstone terraces along the mesa's western cliffs. Few places offer more exhilarating solitude than that at the edge of Sewemup Mesa's soaring cliffs.
In contrast to the heights of Sewemup Mesa, adjacent Roc Creek Canyon plummets 1,000 feet straight down, forming an imposing cleft between Sinbad and Carpenter Ridges. Roc Creek's brilliant red walls are framed by green forests of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine along the canyon rims. Roc Creek itself is a large, roaring creek lined by huge ponderosas. The cliffs of Sewemup Mesa provide nesting sites for the endangered peregrine falcon, as well as for golden eagles. Bald eagles winter along the Dolores River at the area's edge. Mountain lions prowl the mesa, and much of Sinbad Ridge and the mesa's lower slopes are important big-game winter range for deer and elk. In addition to sightings of peregrine falcons and bald eagles, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has identified the area as suitable habitat for Mexican spotted owl, southwest willow flycatcher, whooping crane, and the western burro owl. The Colorado squawfish and humpback chub may be found in the Dolores River adjacent to the unit.
Historically an obscure and little-traveled region, Sewemup Mesa derives its name from the cattle rustling days of the McCarty Gang. The rustlers are said to have burnt off and "sewed up" the cattle's rightful brands in exchange for their own. Today, it is obvious why a band of rustlers would have chosen Sewemup and its vicinity for a hide-out. It is a place where people are such rare visitors that there is little human trace. The area around Cone Mountain in the northern section includes significant prehistoric archeoloy.
BLM estimates the potential for locatable minerals to be low in Sewemup Mesa. No mining claims exist within the original BLM WSA, although several claims may still be present in the northern Cone Mountain addition. Some old mining activity is visible along faults in Sinbad Valley and to the North rear core Mountain. The adjacent Roc Creek area is also considered to have low potential for locatable minerals. Sewemup Mesa contains few oil and gas leases, and possesses only low to moderate potential for oil and gas reserves. Oil and gas potential for Roc Creek is also low to moderate, though several leases occur in that portion of the area.
The potential for commercial timber in Sewemup Mesa and in Roc Creek is nonexistent. There is no livestock grazing on the top of Sewemup Mesa. Portions of several allotments in the remainder of the area on USFS and BLM land.
Sewemup Mesa proper is closed to motorized vehicles,
but the northern addition around Cone Mountain
is open to vehicles.
The western boundary of the unit follows the Tabeguache Trail (which is not inside the unit). The communication towers visible from Highway 141 are excluded from the unit as well. As the boundary approaches Cactus Park, it begins to follow contour lines to exclude numerous stock ponds from the area.
The southern boundary follows BLM Road 7364. The eastern boundary follows the western bank of the Gunnison River and excludes private property. The river is excluded from the unit.