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In the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the BLM was directed to inventory areas for their wilderness characteristics. These areas are known as wilderness study areas (WSA). Until Congress makes a final decision either to designate these areas as wilderness or release them for other multiple-uses, the BLM manages WSAs to preserve their suitability for designation as wilderness. The Royal Gorge Field Office administers five WSAs and one Instant Study Area (ISA).

View of Beaver Creek Wilderness Study Area.  Click on photo for larger view.Beaver Creek WSA - This area is located 10 miles northeast of Cañon City, Colorado.  It consists of more than 26,150 acres of public lands in steep, remote granite canyons that are valued for their wildlife and fish habitat.  The primary trailhead is located within the Beaver Creek State Wildlife Area at the end of Fremont County Road 132.  A portion of Beaver Creek WSA, 13,734 acres, is within an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

View of Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area.  Click on image for larger view.

Browns Canyon WSA - Located six miles south of Buena Vista, Colorado, this WSA contains 6,614 acres of public land just east of the Arkansas River.  It offers rugged topography that creates a variety of settings including canyons and gulches open to ridge tops with sweeping views of the Arkansas River Valley and the nearby Sawatch Mountain range.  Numerous rock spires located throughout the area make Browns Canyon particularly scenic.  The primary trailhead is located near the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site along Chaffee County Road 300.  The entire Browns Canyon WSA is within an ACEC.

 View of Grape Creek Wilderness Study Area.  Click on image for larger view.

Lower and Upper Grape Creek WSAs - Spanning a large portion of the Grape Creek watershed, these two WSAs are located nearby Cañon City and Westcliffe, Colorado.  The Lower Grape Creek WSA covers 11,220 acres of public land.  The Upper Grape Creek WSA covers 10,200 acres of public land.  Rugged peaks and inviting pools provide a diversity of terrain and host a relatively long recreation season for hikers, anglers, hunters, and equestrians.  Access is limited to one trailhead at West Bear Gulch due to surrounding private land.  There are no developed trails within these WSAs.  Grape Creek's riparian corridor is also an ACEC.

McIntyre Hills WSA - This area covers more than 15,910 acres of public land.  It lies in rugged country on the south side of the Arkansas River canyon about 15 miles west of Cañon City, Colorado.  Access is limited due to surrounding private land.  There are no developed trailheads or trails within this area.  A small portion of this WSA near the Arkansas River is in an ACEC.

High Mesa Grassland ISA - Located 13 miles northwest of Cañon City in Fremont County, Colorado.  These 680-acres of public lands span over a rolling mesa and the steep slopes of Table Mountain, locally known as Sommerville Table.  Elevation varies from 8,500 to 9,100 feet.  The unit includes 17 species of native grass.  High Mesa Grassland ISA is within a research natural area (RNA) and an ACEC.