As a photographer and hiker, there is not a
place I'd rather go for a day's outing -- within
an hour's drive of home -- than South Shale
Ridge. The few dirt roads that criss-cross the
area provide adequate and easy access to most
of the good parts. No new roads are needed,
and any form of development, beyond what
already exists, would be a tragedy for this very
special, incredibly fragile place.
Cooper, Grand Junction
Portions of South Shale Ridge might easily be called "Colorado's Bryce Canyon". The south face of the
ridge is a steep, multicolored escarpment of vivid
purples, oranges, and reds. Towering Douglas firs
grace the landscape at the west end of the area, providing
a refreshing highlight to the stark terrain of
the ridge itself. South Shale Ridge is a highly eroded
feature of the Wasatch Formation, ranging in elevation
from 5,000 feet at its eastern base to 8,076 feet
on the summit of Corcoran Peak. Over 40 miles of
twisting arroyos carve through this rugged and colorful
landscape, often opening into secluded parks
at their sources.
A number of outstanding special features complement the area's rugged beauty. "Goblin Valley" is a ghostly collection of white and gray hoodoos guarding the western flank of the ridge. Several rare and endangered plants grow in or near South Shale Ridge. The threatened cactus Sclerocactus glaucus grow within the unit and the rare Phacelia submutica is suspected to occur there as well. In addition, Pyramid Rock Research Natural Area, just across the road from South Shale Ridge, was designated to protect the endangered Uinta Basin hookless cactus. Pyramid Rock is a local landmark formed of colorful clays and sandstones of the Wasatch Formation.
This area supports large populations of three rare
plant species: Sclerocactus glaucus (Uinta Basin
hookless cactus), Phacelia submutica (Debeque
phacelia), and Astragalus debequaeus (Debeque
Because of South Shale Ridge's prominence, the visitor
enjoys sweeping vistas of the Grand Mesa, the
San Juan Mountains, the La Sal Mountains, and the
scenic ridges of the Roan Cliffs. Raptors soar on the air currents above the ridge, and deer frequent the
slopes and valleys of the area.
The primary recreational use of the area is hunting.
South Shale Ridge provides critical winter range for deer and elk.
South Shale Ridge contains several oil and gas leases. About 25 producing gas wells have been drilled on the periphery of the roadless area along the road that defines the
unit's boundary. Additional drilling inside the
roadless area will be difficult due to the steep and
rugged terrain, and the required road construction
would likely result in significant erosion if it were
In 1990, BLM received a development
plan to drill 44 coal-bed methane wells north of South
Shale Ridge, but initial exploratory holes turned up
There are no mining claims and no coal resources within the area.
Motorized vehicles are limited to designated routes that amount to two miles within the proposed wilderness.
Portions of seven grazing allotments cover South Shale Ridge. The area’s steep ridges eliminate the need for boundary fences and deter livestock from wandering off the allotments.
There are no economically valuable forest resources in the area.
South Shale Ridge is a headwaters area.
The area is well defined by existing roads. The Spear Hunter Access Road defines the northern boundary of the unit. The boundaries of the CWP area are those identified by the Bureau of Land Management during its 1999 reinventory of South Shale Ridge roadless area.