Public access to Colorado's Cross Mountain Canyon and the vast Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area is now guaranteed for good. This summer, Western Rivers Conservancy conveyed a ranch on the Yampa River, some 90 miles west of Steamboat Springs, to the Bureau of Land Management. The acquisition permanently conserves 2.5 miles of the Yampa River and places 920 acres at the very entrance to the canyon into public hands.
Bordering the ranch to the northeast, the Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area is home to one of the largest Rocky Mountain elk herds in all of North America. Among hunters it’s some of the most fabled big-game hunting grounds in the country, but access has always been difficult due to private property. Now that the ranch is in BLM hands, access to the ranch and the WSA is open to all. The project also improves access to Cross Mountain Canyon itself, which is famous among rafters and kayakers for its formidable whitewater.
From a conservation perspective, this project is equally important. Acquisition of the ranch creates a refuge for four species of Endangered fish: razorback sucker, humpback chub, bonytail chub and Colorado pikeminnow. All four of these species are native to the Colorado Basin and migrate hundreds of miles from the White River to the Yampa to spawn. Colorado pikeminnow can reach six feet in length and were once an important food source for Native Americans. Ensuring the health of the Yampa River is critical to their long-term survival.
We are thrilled about enabling the public to acquire a property that not only protects a great river, but also creates new access to an invaluable natural resource. We hope you can get out to see it!