A haven for charismatic animals, trout, and recreationists in South Park
The South Platte River is the biological and scenic centerpiece of South Park, one of three major high-altitude basins within the Front Range of Colorado. Located just 60 miles from the state capitol, South Park is a popular recreation destination for people from both Denver and Colorado Springs who head here to hike, hunt, view wildlife and fish the South Platte River and its tributaries. South Park was designated a National Heritage Area in 2009 to preserve its rich agricultural legacy, and the basin is home to sizable herds of elk, mule deer and pronghorn. It is also home to most of the world’s last remaining extreme rich fens, a type of wetland that has been damaged by human development almost everywhere else on Earth.
One of the South Platte River’s principal tributaries is Tarryall Creek, which flows from the 13,823-foot Mount Silverheels and is known for its excellent brown and rainbow trout fishing. Roughly 10 miles northeast of the town of Fairplay, Tarryall Creek flows through the 1,860-acre Collard Ranch, which sits immediately off of Highway 285. For five miles, the stream meanders through the ranch’s open grasslands in beautiful horseshoe bends, with 360-degree views of the Lost Park Wilderness, the Kenosha Mountains and the Mosquito Range.
Long-term protection for Taryall Creek
Western Rivers Conservancy purchased Collard Ranch in December 2023 in order to preserve this outstanding stretch of Tarryall Creek, as well as the ranch’s critically important wildlife habitat. Collard Ranch is part of a major migration corridor for thousands of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and pronghorn, which use the property as their primary route across Highway 285 onto the Cline Ranch State Wildlife Area during their north-south migration across South Park.
Beaver ponds line the creek on the property, a rarity on Colorado’s valley floors. The wetlands created by these ponds attract diverse bird life and create prime fish spawning habitat. Lewis woodpecker and mountain plover, both imperiled species in Colorado are found on the property. For both its biological importance and recreational values, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and Colorado Open Lands consider the ranch a top-priority acquisition.
Now that we have acquired the ranch, we will secure the funds necessary to convey it to CPW. Collard Ranch lies within an important band of protected public lands, and conservation of the property will establish more uniform management for the sake of fish, wildlife and people alike. This outcome would be a significant conservation accomplishment near one of the most populated areas of Colorado, where wildlife and people alike need all the protected lands they can get.