President Obama designated Browns Canyon a national monument on February 19, 2015. It will be cooperatively managed by the BLM and US Forest Service.
Browns Canyon National Monument Frequently Asked Questions by US Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and National Conservation Lands (July 2015):
What can I expect when I visit Browns Canyon National Monument?
Browns Canyon harbors a wealth of scientifically significant geological, ecological, riparian, cultural and historic resources. The topographic and geologic diversity of Browns Canyon has given rise to one of the most significant regions for biodiversity in Colorado. The area is home to some of Colorado’s most emblematic wildlife species, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, mountain lion and bobcats. The forest community incorporates a transition zone, with semi-arid pinyon-juniper woodlands on the lower slopes giving way to ponderosa pine and Douglas fir at higher elevations. Scattered pockets of aspen, willow, river birch and narrowleaf cottonwood can be found.
The Aspen Ridge area boasts a stunning array of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Imperiled plant species such as Fendler’s Townsend-daisy, Fendler’s false cloak-fern and the endemic Front Range alumroot grow near Ruby Mountain.
The geology of Browns Canyon is spectacular. Steep gulches cut through pink granite and metamorphic rock at Railroad Gulch. Stafford Gulch provides astounding views of the unique Reef formation, a long and distinctive face of rock. Pleistocene glaciers created unique topographic features including cirques; flat, mesa-like terraces; and remnants of large moraines. These glaciers also deposited sediment, including gold, silver and semi-precious gemstones that fueled mining booms of the late 1800s. Higher elevations of the Monument provide stunning mountain vistas.
Why is Browns Canyon unique?
The wealth of scientifically significant geological, ecological, riparian, cultural and historic resources provides an important area for studies of paleoecology, mineralogy, archaeology and climate change. For centuries, the Monument’s rugged granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings and stunning mountain vistas have attracted visitors from around the world.
What is the best way to experience the Monument?
Whitewater boating is technically challenging within the Monument. Less experienced boaters should consider going with a commercial outfitter. Boaters with more experience and the proper equipment can enjoy a whitewater trip through the canyon on their own. If you enjoy camping, developed camping and picnicking facilities are available at Hecla Junction and Ruby Mountain. Dispersed camping is available outside of the developed recreation sites, including along the river corridor. Hiking in the Monument is a great way to experience its solitude and naturalness. Hiking opportunities range from short walks to day-long or multi-day adventures. Some parts of the Monument are rugged and difficult to access due to a lack of developed trails. The Monument provides excellent opportunities for wildlife observation, hunting, fishing and horse-back riding.
How can I access the Monument?
All access to the Monument is via unpaved roads that have blind corners and other hazards. Please drive carefully. The easiest access points are near the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site and at the Hecla Junction Recreation Site. Turret Road (FS Road 189) and Aspen Ridge Road (FS Road 180) provide access to the eastern portion of the Monument.
One of the main trailheads into the Monument is adjacent to the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site, which is managed by the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA). The Ruby Mountain Recreation Site features a campground with restrooms, changing facilities, a boat ramp and picnic sites. Access the site via County Road 300, which includes a stretch that is one lane wide, so please use caution.
The Hecla Junction Recreation Site (AHRA) is the primary location for taking boats out after floating through Browns Canyon. The area features a newly renovated campground with restrooms, changing facilities, a boat ramp and picnic sites. The road into Hecla Junction is steep and unpaved; it can be difficult to travel in heavy rain or snow.
Turret Road off Aspen Ridge Road provides a rugged 4x4 experience traveling through open meadows and granite spires into the heart of the Monument with the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness as the backdrop. Turret Road is open to all vehicles, but high clearance 4x4 vehicles are recommended.
Aspen Ridge Road comprises the eastern boundary of the Monument. Aspen Ridge Road is open to all vehicles, but high clearance 4x4 vehicles are recommended. Vehicles must remain within one vehicle length of the road when parking.
Can I park anywhere on the Turret Road and Aspen Ridge Road?
Yes. Vehicles must remain within one vehicle length of the road when parking. Travel guidelines can be found on the free Salida Ranger District motor vehicle use map, available online or at the Salida Ranger District.
Will I have to pay a fee?
You can access the Monument without paying a fee at several locations, such as Aspen Ridge Road, Turret Road and the Ruby Mountain Trailhead.
Parking at the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site and the Hecla Junction Recreation Site requires a Colorado Parks and Wildlife annual or daily parks pass. For more information about fees, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/ArkansasHeadwatersRecreationArea/Pages/Fees.aspx
Will my cell phone work in the Monument?
Don’t depend on using your cell phone.
What is the elevation of the Monument?
The elevation of Browns Canyon ranges from 7,300 to 10,000 feet.
Social media – where can I connect with BCNM on social media?
Connect with the BLM, Forest Service and CPW at the links below:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BLMColorado; https://www.facebook.com/BLMRoyalGorge
CPW Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoParksandWildlife
AHRA Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArkansasHeadwaters
Friends of Browns Canyon
What hiking trails are there? How difficult are they?
Ruby Mountain Trailhead route distances and estimated hiking times:
Round-trip to the river at Little Cottonwood via Turret Trail (#6045): 2.7 miles, 2 hours
Round-trip to the river via the River Bench Trail (#6045A): 5.5 miles, 3 hours
Round-trip to the river via River Access Trail (#6045B): 9 miles, 4.5 hours
Round-trip including Catkin Gulch loop (#6046): 11.5 miles 5 hours
Round-trip Ruby Mountain Trailhead to Turret Road: 11 miles, 5 hours
The Turret Trail 6045 en route to the Arkansas River at Little Cottonwood Creek is a steep but short 2-mile round-trip introduction to the Wilderness Study Area with wide views of its northern half.
The 5.5-mile “in and out” hike along the gentle dead-end River Bench Trail 6045A provides a good sample of the northern Wilderness Study Area with an Arkansas River overlook.
The 11.5-mile Catkin Gulch Loop 6046 round-trip via Turret Trail 6405 goes deep into the Monument for a fuller experience of its wilderness character.
Hecla Junction offers out-and-back trails along west bank of the Arkansas River.
For more information about the hiking trails, including maps, please visit the Friends of Browns Canyon website at http://brownscanyon.org.
Do I have to stay on the trails when I hike?
Stay on designated trails unless you are confident in your cross-country hiking and navigation skills. Please plan ahead before embarking on cross-country travel and follow Leave No Trace guidelines on or off the trail. Pack essential items like navigation systems, sun protection, extra clothing, first aid supplies, food and water.
Where can I camp in BCNM?
Dispersed camping is allowed on BLM-managed lands and on the National Forest. Please use existing campsites and limit your impact by following Leave No Trace principles.
The AHRA has two developed fee campgrounds within the Monument: Ruby Mountain on the northern end of the Monument and Hecla Junction on the southern end of the Monument. Camping along the Arkansas River requires a fire pan, a solid human waste carry-out system and storage for carrying out trash.
For more information on hiking and camping in bear country, please learn more here: http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlifeCampingBearCountry.aspx
Can I have a campfire? Where can I go to learn about fire restrictions? Where do I report campfires?
You can have a campfire as long as fire restrictions aren’t in effect. Campfires are allowed in all AHRA developed campgrounds within designated fire pits and in undeveloped campsites along the Arkansas River within the Monument. Visitors utilizing undeveloped campsites along the Arkansas River must have elevated fire pans with two-inch minimum rigid sides. In the rest of the Monument, campers are encouraged to use existing campfire rings and are not required to use a fire pan. All campers need to be aware of current conditions and any fire restrictions or bans.
Report any unattended campfire to 911. Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office: 719-539-2596
Fire Restrictions: http://chaffeesheriff.org/fire-restrictions/
Is there trash service?
No. Pack out anything you bring with you to the Monument.
Can I bring my dog?
Yes. On federally managed lands (BLM and USFS) within the Monument, dogs must be in direct control of their owner, either by voice or leash. Dogs must be on a leash not exceeding six feet in length within the AHRA (Ruby Mountain & Hecla Junction Recreation Sites) and the AHRA-managed Arkansas River corridor.
Where can I find maps?
Ruby Mountain Trailhead maps can be found here: http://brownscanyon.org/map/.
The Salida Ranger District motor vehicle use map can be found here: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5200515.pdf.
AHRA has maps here: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/ArkansasHeadwatersRecreationArea/Pages/MapsDirections.aspx.
The BLM has interactive and .pdf maps you can access here: http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/NLCS/BrownsCanyonNM.html.
I want to float the Arkansas River through the Monument. How can I do that?
Private boaters can put in at either Fisherman's Bridge or Ruby Mountain Recreation Site and take out at either Hecla Junction or Stone Bridge Recreation Site. A private boat permit system is not currently in effect within the Monument. Depending upon flow conditions, the river is Class III-V through the Monument. AHRA suggests that boaters consider using a commercial outfitter if they have any concerns about their skills or equipment. A list of commercial outfitters can be obtained on AHRA's website, www.cpw.state.co.us, or from the AHRA Visitor Center at 719-539-7289. Boaters are required to have a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Park Pass for all vehicles parked at an AHRA fee site, or an Individual Park Pass if entering an AHRA fee site in a boat without vehicle support.
When is the best time of year to raft the Arkansas River? What are water flows like?
The whitewater boating season typically runs from mid-May to mid-August; however, many commercial outfitters offer whitewater boating trips through mid-September and beyond.
For information on water flows, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/ArkansasHeadwatersRecreationArea/Pages/Waterflow.aspx
What kind of rapids can I expect?
For individuals looking for excitement, high water in late May through June can make for very challenging, technical whitewater trips with rapids at the Class III-V level, while July and early August typically offer more family-friendly whitewater trips at the Class III-IV level. During the shoulder seasons (mid-March to mid-May and mid-August to late October) the river typically flows at a level ideally suited for float fishing. Always assess your skills and equipment before departing on a whitewater or float fishing trip, and never boat alone.
Can I hunt and fish in the new Monument?
Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages hunting and fishing. Fishing is allowed and encouraged within the Monument. Ruby Mountain and Hecla Junction Recreation Site provide access to the Arkansas River, which is designated as a Gold Medal Trout Fishery.
You can hunt in the Monument except within developed AHRA recreation sites (Ruby Mountain and Hecla Junction). Outside developed recreation areas, statewide hunting regulations apply. The latest hunting and fishing regulation brochures can be found here: http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/RegulationsBrochures.aspx
What kind of motorized routes exist in the Monument?
Motorized routes within the Monument are Turret Road, Aspen Ridge Road and FS Road 1434A. FS Road 1434A is an ATV route that traverses the northern boundary of the Monument. There is a seasonal gate closure from December 1 to April 15 every year.
What is the weather like in the Monument?
Buena Vista (81211) or Salida (81201) are nearby towns that have weather similar to the Monument. Weather conditions can change rapidly, especially with elevation changes. Be sure to pack multiple layers of clothing.
How do I get to the Monument?
Hecla Junction and Ruby Mountain can be accessed from Highway 285, which runs between Buena Vista and Salida.
Ruby Mountain: From Highway 285, follow the signs to Ruby Mountain Recreation Site and turn east onto County Road 301. After 0.57 miles, turn east on County Road 300 and follow County Road 300 for 2.43 miles until you reach the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site.
Hecla Junction: From Highway 285, follow the signs to Hecla Junction Recreation Site and turn east onto County Road 194. Follow County Road 194 east for 2.59 miles until you get to Hecla Junction Recreation Site.
Turret Road: From Highway 291 in Salida, head north on County Road 175. Stay on County Road 175 for 7.3 miles. Make a slight left on County Road 184 and continue for 4.2 miles until you reach Turret. When in Turret, turn right onto Turret Ave. and make your first left onto North Spring Road. The road becomes Forest Road 184. Continue 6.3 miles until you reach the Monument boundary.
Who manages the Monument?
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service jointly manage the Monument. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, through the AHRA, manages river-based recreation on the Arkansas River through Browns Canyon.
Is there a visitor center?
There is no visitor center on site, but information about the Monument can be found at the following locations:
For information on whitewater boating, hunting and fishing, contact the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, 307 W. Sacket Ave., Salida, 719-539-7289. http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/ArkansasHeadwatersRecreationArea/
For information about the BLM-managed public lands within the Monument, contact the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office, 3028 E. Main St, Cañon City, 719-269-8500. http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/rgfo.html
For information about the Forest Service-managed section of the Monument, contact the USFS Salida Ranger District, 5575 Cleora Road, Salida, 719-539-3591. http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/psicc/home
Does the BLM still manage part of the Monument as a Wilderness Study Area?
Yes. Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area is part of the Monument.
What is the status of traditional uses, such as grazing?
The Monument contains several active livestock grazing allotments that have been permitted since implementation of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934. Grazing in this area supports the local economy and maintains the historic ranching heritage of Chaffee County. Livestock grazing management practices are conducted in manner that promotes a balance with wildlife needs, protection of riparian areas and healthy plant ecosystems.
Does the Monument designation change water use?
What should I know about the Antiquities Act?
The Antiquities Act of 1906 granted the President authority to designate national monuments in order to protect “objects of historic or scientific interest.” While most national monuments are established by the President, Congress has also occasionally established national monuments to protect natural or historic features. Since 1906, the President and Congress have created more than 100 national monuments. National monuments are currently managed by agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service,
Here is a link to the story that appeared in the February 18, 2015 Denver Post:
DENVER (Feb. 28, 2015) - President Barack Obama's plan to declare Colorado's Browns Canyon a national monument means sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts will be able to enjoy its spectacular landscapes, world-class whitewater rafting and hunting and fishing for generations to come. "Browns Canyon is widely revered for its rafting, fishing, hunting, hiking, wildlife watching, and rugged backcountry," said Collin O'Mara, the National Wildlife Federation's CEO and president, "This is why folks from all walks of life, lawmakers from both parties, and conservation leaders across Colorado, including our state affiliate the Colorado Wildlife Federation, have worked for more than two decades to protect it. On behalf of the entire National Wildlife Federation, we are grateful to the president for supporting wildlife and amazing outdoor experiences by permanently protecting this conservation jewel." Browns Canyon<http://brownscanyon.org/about-browns-canyon/>, about 140 miles southwest of Denver, is known nationwide for whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River. The Colorado River Outfitters Association said recreation on the river generated nearly $56 million in economic benefits in 2013. The area's gulches, rocky cliffs, forests and meadows provide habitat for mule deer, elk, black bears, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, eagles and falcons. A 102-mile stretch of the Arkansas is classified as Gold Medal trout waters, based on the quality and quantity of fish. Hikers in Browns have great views of some of Colorado's most dramatic Fourteeners - mountains more than 14,000 feet in elevation. "We've been waiting a long time for this. Making Browns Canyon a national monument has overwhelming support from the public, especially from people who live the closest to it. We know what we have and we don't want to lose it," said Bill Dvorak, NWF's public lands organizer in Colorado and a longtime rafting and fishing guide on the Arkansas River. News that Obama will proclaim Browns Canyon a national monument this week follows a recent public meeting in Salida that drew about 700 people. Former Sen. Mark Udall hosted the meeting in December so federal officials could gauge support for protecting Browns. Udall, Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper asked Obama to use his executive authority after Udall's bill to establish a monument stalled in Congress. "Presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have used the Antiquities Act to conserve some of our country's most stunning landscapes and important ecosystems. The Grand Canyon, Chaco Canyon and Muir Woods are just a few of the places set aside by presidents. We can add Browns Canyon to the list of American treasures that showcase the best of the natural resources that make us the envy of other countries around the world," said Kent Ingram, Colorado Wildlife Federation president.
Here is a link to the public gathering on December 6, urging designation as a national monument.
Also, here is the link to the Denver Post Board's editorial that appeared online in the Sunday, November 30 edition:
A year ago, on December 3, 2013, Senator Mark Udall introduced a bill to protect Browns Canyon (S. 1794, Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013). This legislation was written to safeguard one of Colorado's most treasured landscapes. CWF has actively supported protection for Browns Canyon for many years. This bill was the result of almost two years of community-driven discussions and work for the purpose of preserving outdoor recreation along the 22,000-acre Arkansas River canyon and backcountry. The whitewater kayaking, fishing, hunting, birding and other outdoor recreation activities there produce a significant contribution to Colorado’s economy. The regional whitewater boating industry alone accounts for more than $23 million in direct expenditures, yielding an economic impact of $60 million to the Arkansas River valley. Senator Udall led a hearing on July 23, 2014 by the U.S. Senate National Parks Subcommittee of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee but the bill did not move forward.
Udall introduced his grassroots legislation in December 2013http://ct.symplicity.com/t/muv/1287cba4b2fb227dfed81e545cc9b903/1857013680/realurl=http:/www.markudall.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=3899 following 18 months of public meetings. The bill incorporated ideas based on several public comment sessions http://ct.symplicity.com/t/muv/1287cba4b2fb227dfed81e545cc9b903/1857013680/realurl=https:/www.flickr.com/photos/senatormarkudall/sets/72157633248621289/with/8652451012/, written correspondence and a series of meetings with local stakeholders.
Here is a press release from July 23, 2014:
Sportsmen, wildlife advocates back Browns Canyon bill --Groups say monument designation would permanently protect prized landscape
DENVER (Wednesday, July 23, 2014) - Sportsmen's and wildlife groups are urging members of Congress to support a bill that would permanently protect Colorado 's Browns Canyon, a treasured wildlife and recreation area.
The Senate National Parks Subcommittee was scheduled Wednesday to consider S. 1794, a bill by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall that would establish the 22,000-acre Browns Canyon National Monument. <http://www.scribd.com/doc/188740216/The-Fact-Sheet-and-FAQs-for-U-S-Senator-Mark-Udall-s-Bill-to-Create-the-Browns-Canyon-National-Monument> The hearing represents a step forward after more than two decades of work by grassroots organizations and elected officials to conserve the nationally known whitewater rafting site and important fishing and hunting spot, National Wildlife Federation and Colorado Wildlife Federation representatives said.
"The legislation would safeguard one of Colorado's most treasured landscapes. The Colorado Wildlife Federation has actively supported protecting Browns Canyon for many years because of its importance to anglers, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts," said Suzanne O'Neill, CWF's executive director.
Browns Canyon offers some of the country's best whitewater rafting and premier fishing, said Bill Dvorak, a rafting and fishing guide and NWF's public lands organizer in Colorado. He noted that Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently designated a 102-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, which runs through Browns, as a Gold Medal fishery based on the quantity and quality of the trout.
"I've been guiding river trips through Browns Canyon in the area since the early '80s and it's undeniably one of the top whitewater destinations in the country," Dvorak said. "Browns Canyon is a critical part of the area's economy. Last year, recreation on the Arkansas River pumped at least $55 million into the economy." Dvorak noted that earlier proposals to protect Browns would have set aside 100,000 acres. "People have compromised through the years to come up with a plan that will work," Dvorak added. "It's time to take action to make sure that the backcountry, fishing, wildlife and economic benefits that Browns Canyon provides will be around for a long time to come." Browns, with its granite rock formations and sweeping views of the Arkansas Valley and the Collegiate Peaks, some higher than 14,000 feet, is home to bighorn sheep, elk, deer, black bears, mountain lions, eagles and falcons. Udall's bill, cosponsored by Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, would classify 10,500 acres within the monument as wilderness. Existing access and land uses, including hunting, commercial outfitting, motorized travel and livestock grazing, would continue.