In 2012, Western Rivers Conservancy completed a historic purchase on Colorado’s Yampa River: the Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch. Acquisition of this 920-acre property protects 2.5 miles of prime riverland on one of Colorado’s greatest streams while opening new access to more than 88,000 acres of surrounding public land. For WRC and the Interior West, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch is a milestone both in terms of access and river conservation.
The least dammed river in the Colorado Basin, the Yampa flows 250 miles from the Flat Tops Wilderness to the Green River, in Dinosaur National Monument. Along the way, it nourishes one of the finest riparian corridors in the West, including extensive cottonwood forests along the middle and lower river. The lower Yampa is home to elk, mountain lion, coyote, mule deer, beavers and numerous songbird species. It is also home to all four species of imperiled Colorado Basin warm-water fish: razorback sucker, humpback chub, bonytail chub and, tipping scales at up to 80 pounds, the Colorado pike minnow.
Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch lies west of Maybell, Colorado, at the entrance of a deep vertical-walled gorge known as Cross Mountain Canyon. It is also strategically located on the eastern edge of the Cross Mountain Wilderness Study Area (WSA), which is home to one of the largest migratory elk herds in the Lower 48. Despite being one of the country’s most fabled big-game hunting grounds, the area has been effectively off limits since access was strictly through private property or by boat. With WRC’s purchase of Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch, it is now open to all.
Given the property's strategic location, the BLM has sought to acquire the ranch for years. In 2013, that vision became reality when WRC conveyed the ranch to the agency. Now the property's long-term conservation steward, the BLM will install visitor facilities and work to ensure the project lands remain forever healthy for fish and wildlife.
Critical support for our work on the Yampa River was provided by the L.P. Brown Foundation, The Conservation Alliance, Kenney Brothers Foundation and Laura Jane Musser Fund.