Dominguez Canyons Wliderness Study Area- Keep It Real
Growing up under the austere Bookcliffs, I despised the cruel desert. It jailed me from the urban “coolness” that resided in the big cities.
Green was cool. Cities were cool.
A little town in dusty-dry desert, way not cool … but I was wrong, and everyone here knows it.
When I heard about the wilderness study area for Dominquez Canyons, just south of Whitewater, I assumed it would be far less impressive than the soaring cliffs of Colorado National Monument. I was wrong, but few people know it. I admittedly don't know much; I know even less about the details of wilderness designation versus the alternatives of multi-use, real estate development, or resource extraction. But I will share a few basic observations about Dominguez Canyons Wilderness Study Area near Grand Junction.
I headed out to investigate Dominguez Canyons to share my impression with the public. I often go alone but I made a last-minute call to my school friend Andrew Blade who lives near Kannah Creek. I lucked out — Andrew brings the boys Bryce 13, Wolf 9, and Hunter 8, his girl!
We drove a few miles south on Highway 50. A right turn brought us down the dirt road to the river at Bridgeport.
We walked a mile up the railroad tracks, crossed the new pedestrian bridge over the Gunnison River and turned up the lower Dominguez Canyon.
I was extremely surprised to see the Dominquez Creek running very strong. I heard there were waterfalls, but in my desert experience this means where water “can” fall but seldom does. At 9,000 feet, the Uncompahgre Plateau above catches and holds winter snow, making this a perennial stream.
We continued on the trail up the wide canyon past healthy cottonwoods, detached towers, a rock arch, and monstrous boulders strewn across the tall sage flats. The trail climbed steadily to a black rock canyon roaring with falls and churning potholes.
We played on boulders; looky-loo'd at the waterworks, and yodeled for echoes off the red walls. We kept our eyes peeled for Fremont Indian rock art, bighorn sheep, and huge bullfrogs I've heard can be seen in the canyons and along the river edge.
We weren't that lucky, but we did get sprinkled on.
I told the kids to try and stick to the trails and rocks and not tread on the black soil that helps the desert floor hold onto life in a dry world. They mostly listened.
As we walked back to the car I was reminded of my youth. Wolf lamented how tired he was of walking. He said it would be great to come back and camp by the falls because there is water, but maybe we could take four wheelers or drive there because all this walking was too much.
I said that if Wolf kept it up I'd change his name to “Fluffy.” I asked if the kids would like to live in the canyon and have the water for themselves. What do you think they said?
This land is not sheer or dramatic. It's what is not here that's worth sharing and preserving.
Conserving wild lands below the pine and aspen level is rare yet very important, especially when it is not severed from the mountain water that sustains it. The land above the Dominguez Canyons area is mostly unpopulated National Forest. Snowmelt reaches wildlife and delivers fresh water vital to the Gunnison River, as well as the circa 1890 orchard that it serves.
We have a unique opportunity to maintain a section of landscape and a western ecosystem from the mountain top to the river bottom. By comparison, much of the water that once flowed through Colorado National Monument and McInnis Canyons seems to be captured and used up by residents of Glade Park above.
I can appreciate the desire for folks to live in a western setting; Sadly, the sprawl that results disintegrates and devalues the western landscape we love and ultimately rely on.
We have the opportunity to lead the nation with conserving mountain to river.
We can make the best of our situation; leave future generations with land and resources that can make their lives better. Otherwise we can do what we have always done. Use up land for development, unchecked recreation, and extract what resources are available.
We can add to the short-term gain of very few, or we can save the largest piece of wilderness quality land left in Colorado for future generations.
Again I won't claim to be an expert, but I can tell you this: Leaving the world in better condition than we found it is hard. Not trying may make life even harder for our generation, and especially for those to come.
Dominquez Canyons needs your support today. This isn't about taking sides in the culture war, or taking on the stigma of being “green.”
It's about treating your neighbor and creation how it needs to be treated, whether that neighbor is on two, four, or no legs at all. Write your local senators, stand up for what part of the west that you can. It's in our hands. Do the right thing.
“Fluffy” is counting on you.
Please act on this call to civic duty in your respective county by contacting our local elected officials in this area and for areas that you care about in your area.
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