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Rare Lizard and Snake Natural Area

The Rare Lizard and Snake Natural Area is an Instant Wilderness Study Area (ISA). It has also been referred to as the McElmo Resource Natural Area (RNA). This ISA is characterized by numerous, winding canyons with rugged, steep walls. Ancestral Puebloans were once in the area, leaving an abundant archaeological history. It also sustains a relatively undisturbed population of reptilia that are rare and unique to the southwestern portion of Colorado. The upper Sonoran Life Zone, which is sparely vegetated by shrubs and grasses, contains at least 12 species of lizard fauna and is one of the most diverse in Colorado. Though this ISA technically falls under the Tres Rios Field Office boundaries, it is managed by the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.


Total Area:
 12,984 acres
BLM Field Office: Tres Rios
Designated: 1980 (Instant Wilderness Study Area)

Location: The Rare Lizard and Snake ISA is located approximately 27 miles northwest of Cortez, in the extreme western portion of Montezuma County, near the Utah-Colorado state border. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is also nearby.

Flora & Fauna: Vegetation, although fairly sparse, consists mainly of a high diversity and includes pinyon-juniper, greasewood, grasses, sagebrush, and saltbrush. Fauna includes rare and unique reptilia, such as the desert spiny lizard, collared lizard, sagebrush lizard, eastern fence lizard, tree lizard, side-blotched lizard, western rattlesnake, western whiptail snake, common kingsnake, gopher snake, and the western garter snake.

Recreation: Activities include hiking and photography. For more information, visit the Recreation page. Please note that though unconfined recreation is encouraged in wilderness study areas, specific types of recreation may be barred from a specific area to prevent the degradation of natural conditions.


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Tres Rios Field Office  |  (970) 882-7296  |  29211 Hwy 184, Dolores, CO 81323

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument  |  (970) 882-5600  |  27501 Hwy 184, Dolores, CO 81323