The Dolores River Canyon WSA consists of rugged canyons cut through a series of sedimentary strata, resulting in a vertical-walled canyon system with colorful ledges and massive cliffs. Approximately 30 miles of the Dolores River are included in this WSA.
The numerous tributary canyons are often very narrow, sheer-walled, and boulder-choked, leading up to hidden grotto pools of clear, cool water with hanging ferns and other non-desert vegetation. River elevation drops from ~5,300 to ~5,000 feet within the WSA. Benches of bedrock and rocky ridges rise 500 to 700 feet above the canyon bottom, while the rim is ~1,100 feet above the river.
The geologic history of the area is clearly exposed by the deep cutting action of the river, offering a 160-million-year-old exhibit, beginning with the oldest exposed rock-limestones of the Pennsylvanian Period (formed 300 million years ago) - and progressing up to the youngest exposed material-outcrops of the Entrada Sandstone from the Jurassic Period (formed 140 million years ago). The topography and vegetation create settings that provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation.
Total Area: 30,119 acres
Elevation Range: ~5,000 to ~6,400 feet
BLM Field Office: Tres Rios and Uncompahgre
Designated: 1980 (Wilderness Study Area)
Location: The Dolores River Canyon WSA is located Montrose and San Miguel counties, approximately 17 miles west of Naturita; 28 miles north of Dove Creek; two miles south of CO-90.
Flora & Fauna: Vegetation consists mainly of pinyon-juniper, spineless hedgehog cactus, sagebrush, Mormon tea, squawbrush, buffalo berry, cottonwood, ponderosa pine, aspen, and spruce/fir. The WSA lies within the Colorado Plateau Province. Fauna includes desert bighorn sheep, river otter, mountain lion, bobcat, mule deer, waterfowl, coyote, collared lizard, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, golden eagles, and various other raptors.
Recreation: Activities include backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and photography. For more information, visit the Recreation page. Please note that though unconfined recreation is encouraged in WSAs, specific types of recreation may be barred from a specific area to prevent degradation of natural conditions.
Click here for additional information about the Dolores River Canyon WSA from the Tres Rios Field Office.
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Tres Rios Field Office | (970) 882-7296 | 29211 Hwy 184, Dolores, CO 81323
Uncompahgre Field Office | (970) 240-5300 | 2465 S. Townsend Ave., Montrose, CO 81401