The NCA provides important habitat for many species of wildlife and plants, and an ecology unique to desert ecosystems. On any trip into the NCA, you have an opportunity to see Desert Bighorn Sheep, Collared Lizards, mountain lions, many species of raptors, and river otters. In the spring, the desert is a riot of wildflowers for the few short days when conditions are right. Globally rare native plants, including the Colorado hookless cactus, are found within the NCA.
Archaeology and Paleontology
The NCA contains a unique and scientifically significant cultural and paleontological record.
As you explore the cultural landscape of the NCA, you might find historic traces left by the Ute and Fremont Native Americans. Farther back in time, land now within the NCA was also home to a rich diversity of dinosaurs, and many of their remains are preserved within the NCA in a uniquely complete assemblage of fossils. Many of the paleontological finds made in the NCA are internationally important, ranging from one of the smallest known Jurassic mammals (Fruitafossor windscheffeli) to fossils of the large, charismatic Jurassic giants such as Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus, Ceratosaurus, Allosaurus, Nodosaurus, and Stegosaurus.
The NCA preserves and protects the fascinating geological features of the Uncompahgre Plateau and the stunning red-rock canyons that drain the Plateau to the Colorado River. The Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness contains an amazingly dense array of natural sandstone arches. Variegated red-and-white sandstone within the NCA holds evidence of ancient cross-bedding and ocean beaches. Trails wind over rocks that preserve ripples from the action of ancient sea waves. Monoliths rise alongside the stunning red walls of the deeply incised redrock canyons. Fascinating side drainages wind back off the main canyons. The Colorado River, itself a current example of the power of water erosion, flows through many fascinating geologic landforms, including the weird and wonderful ancient schists that form the unique Black Rocks section.
Geology brochures for self-guided hikes are available as pdf files and can be found here.