Fossil Site


Uncompahgre Field Office




Rock Art Site in the UFO

 Cultural Site Excavation 






UFO public lands contain a multitude of cultural and paleontological resource sites.  These special sites include rock art, prehistoric habitation camps and proto-historic Ute wikiup camps, along with several world class fossil localities.  In addition, historic mining camps, homestead settlements, and townsites can be found throughout the Uncompahgre Plateau.


Cultural Site Visits & Education

Walking Bear Petroglyph

Hikers and other recreational users make the greatest number of visits to cultural resource sites.  Through a variety of educational resources, many of these visitors have familiarized themselves with a site's history prior to their arrival.  Educational and public outreach opportunities are crucial in helping to preserve for future generations the rich cultural heritage that cultural sites offer.

BLM Cultural Resources Specialist interprets a rock art panel in the UFO




Studies indicate that vandalism of sites is less likely to occur following educational exposure, as the public begins to take ownership in and value cultural resources, rather than accidentally or intentionally damaging or destroying them.

Developed Cultural Resource Facilities

The BLM has created repositories for collections of cultural materials.  These facilities support public education and awareness of our rich cultural heritage.  The Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado welcomes visitors and research scholars to view the museum and collections housed there.

Several cultural sites with trail guides and information brochures are available to enhance the public’s awareness of the cultural history and prehistoric sites within the canyons and river drainages of the UFO.


Paleontological Resources

Public lands within the UFO are well known for preserving fossil-bearing sites.  Several world-class fossil localities are found here, including the Bedrock dinosaur exposure and the San Miguel fossil fish locality.  Recent inventories have detailed more than a dozen new fossil sites, including both dinosaur bones and preserved trackways.

Public participation is vital to help preserve these irreplaceable scientific treasures for future generations.  While the UFO currently has no developed sites for viewing fossils or excavations, several fossil exposures and trackways are being considered for public interpretation.


Cultural Site Stewards

Line Drawing of Rock Art

The UFO needs hikers and backcountry travelers to help protect fragile cultural and paleontological resources by monitoring for suspicious behavior, vandalism, and looting.  Please consider signing up for a short training and put your name on the list of site stewards to help protect your public lands and cultural resources.

Link to

Area Cultural History

Class I Cultural Resource Overview, BLM Uncompahgre Field Office 19.2MB






Cover: Guide to Assessing Radium, Uranium and Vanadium Mining Resources

Guide to Assessing Historic Radium, Uranium and Vanadium Mining Resources in Montrose and San Miguel Counties, Colorado (2008)

Part I  2.98MB

Part II  1.74MB



Overview of Area Cultural History

For thousands of years, humans have considered the lands now within the Uncompahgre Field Office to be a desirable place to live.  Current studies indicate that occupation of this portion of western Colorado began over 12,000 years ago during the Paleoindian Period, and has continued through the present day.

Archaeological and Rock Art Sites

The long period of occupation has resulted in a remarkable diversity of archaeological sites scattered throughout the region.  Some particularly dense areas may contain one site for every ten acres.

Perhaps most impressive are the rock art sites, which range in age from ancient Archaic (7,000-400 BC) up through the Historic Period (1830-1950 AD).  The symbolic images have been interpreted as depicting trails, maps, ceremonies, shamanic themes, band information, tribal histories, and hunting stories, along with marks, signatures, and artwork made by cowboys and explorers.  Although some images might appear to be mundane graffiti, they were meaningful to the people who created them.

The Earliest Human Occupants

Caves and stone structures built along the slopes of the Uncompahgre Plateau offer evidence that occupants during the Formative Period (400 BC to 1300 AD) developed agriculture.  Were these farmers relatives of the Anasazi of the Four Corners region?

Historic Hanging Flume Placer Gold Mining Operation near Uravan Colorado

Historic Hanging Flume placer gold mining operation near Uravan, Colorado

Further research may provide an answer.  Other sites contain rock shelters, open camp sites, lithic scatters, game drives, trails and quarries.  The Tabeguache and Uncompahgre bands of Ute Indians left wickiups, teepee rings, scarred trees and Bear Dance rock art as testimony to their presence in the area from about the fifteenth century until their forced relocation in 1881.

Exploration and Westward Expansion

Lonely cabins and homesteads tell the story of more recent settlement in this area.  Europeans (primarily Spanish), Mexicans and Americans first passed this way as explorers and fur traders, while later arrivals settled here as miners, farmers, ranchers and loggers, each leaving their mark on the land.


One of the region’s most intriguing historic sites is the thirteen-mile long Hanging Flume, located near the former uranium and vanadium mining town of Uravan, Colorado.  Constructed in the late 1800s to deliver water to a placer gold mining operation, the flume is an engineering wonder, clinging to sheer red sandstone cliffs high above the Dolores and San Miguel Rivers.

Cultural Resources in the UFO

To date, 4,638 cultural resource sites have been recorded on BLM land within the UFO.  More sites remain to be discovered, as only 17% of the land has been formally surveyed.  These sites contain a wealth of information on the prehistory and history of the area, and several hundred are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

In March 2004, a report titled A Research Design and Context for Prehistoric Cultural Resources in the Uncompahgre Plateau Archaeological Project's Study Area, Western Colorado was completed by Alpine Archaeological Consultants, Inc. of Montrose, Colorado.  The research was partially funded by a State Historical Fund Grant awarded by the Colorado Historical Society.  Alan D. Reed was the principal investigator, with assistance from Rachel Gebauer.  The report may be viewed in .pdf format by following the title link.

If you come across a site during your exploration of the Uncompahgre Field Office, please remember not to disturb either the site or its artifacts.  The artifacts, as well as their placement within a site, provide archaeologists with valuable clues as to how people in this area might have lived many years ago.


Teresa Pfifer, Acting Field Manager

Phone: (970) 240-5300  |  TDD: (970) 240-5366  |  FAX: (970) 240-5367

2465 S. Townsend Ave, Montrose, CO  81401

Office Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

Click on the address above for a map showing the location of

BLM Uncompahgre Field Office administrative headquarters


Pictograph Landscape