A walk along Ute Creek takes you past beautiful watercress-lined springs. The stream has some potential for restoration of native trout, but the creek and its canyon are not all there is to admire. The Plateau to the north has stands of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and aspen that extend down into the canyon and along the Snowshoe Trail. Overall, Ute Creek provides a nicely varied Wilderness experience close to the western slope's major city.
The steep granite cliffs of Unaweep Canyon comprise the Unaweep CWP along with the 1,000-foot deep Ute Creek Canyon and surrounding gently sloping mesa tops at the north end of the Uncompahgre Plateau. The area contains representative examples of southwestern Colorado's scenic canyons, pinyon-juniper woodlands, and aspen-spruce forests that provide scenic backdrops to the Unaweep- Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway.
The proposed wilderness overlaps the Uncompahgre National Forest Ute Creek Roadless Area. Approximately 10,000 acres of roadless BLM lands are adjacent to the 29,000-acre Forest Service roadless area.
Unaweep includes the deepest and most dramatic portions of Unaweep Canyon, reaching depths from 2,000 to 3,300 feet. A number of steep canyons, such as Ute Creek, drain the Uncompahgre Plateau as they cut through the area. A pinyon-juniper wooldand blankets much of this rugged terrain, with thick riparian growth characterizing the drainage bottoms, ranging from willows and cottonwoods to ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and oakbrush. The rolling mesa tops above the rugged canyons are covered by large aspen forests broken by sagebrush flats and ringed by lush spruce forests on the northern and western slopes.
A horse trail into Ute Creek provides relatively easy
access into the heart of the roadless area. The Rim
Trail along the top of the plateau affords spectacular
views of the La Sal Mountains, Lone Cone Peak,
the Abajo Mountains, and Unaweep Canyon. The Rim Trail traverses several of the vast aspen glades
that characterize the area. Hiking, hunting, backpacking,
horsepacking, and photography are popular recreational
uses of the area. Mule deer and elk are common
big game animals, and black bear and mountain
lion also frequent the area.
The proposed wilderness is currently managed by
the BLM and Forest Service with an emphasis on
big game winter range and wildlife habitat.
Due to the steep topography and low commercial value of the pinyon-juniper woodlands, there is little
potential for timber harvest in the area. Some firewood
gathering occurs, and there is conceivably the
potential for small area timber sales.
Several Forest Service grazing allotments exist in the roadless area.
Certain access roads have been excluded from the proposed wilderness to provide ranchers with necessary access to stockponds and other range improvements.
There are a few oil and gas leases within the proposed wilderness. There are not any mining claims. The area currently receives little or no use by motorized vehicles.
Unaweep is a headwaters area situated on the watershed
divide of the Uncompahgre Plateau. There are several private water rights associated with irrigation
ditches at the lower edges of the area.
The Forest Service 2005 roadless evaluation found a portion of the unit to be available for wilderness designation. The BLM lands formerly identified as the West Unaweep wilderness inventory unit total about 10,000 acres.
The northern boundary of the area generall follows private lands along Unaweep Canyon. The Divide
Road forms the eastern boundary, and the roads in
Casto Draw and Indian Creek form the western and
southern boundaries, respectively.
Two roads are cherrystemmed: the Rim Trail is excluded from the wilderness boundaries for access to Gateway’s small television translator, and the Snowshoe Trail is cherrystemmed for a couple of miles to a small corral and stable. Several other minor ways and tracks are proposed for closure and revegetation.