Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Uncompahgre Plateau & San Miguel Valley (10/4/2016)

The Uncompahgre Plateau is a large uplift that lies to the west of Montrose.  Some 90 miles long, the plateau is bounded by the Colorado River to the north, the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers to the west, the San Juan Mountains to the south, and the Uncompahgre Valley to the east.  The name "Uncompahgre" is a Ute Indian word meaning "dirty water", used to describe the water coming out of the Red Mountains carrying iron oxide that turns the rocks to a reddish color.  There are a great many roads on the plateau, but none of them can run straight due to the large number of canyons, and all of them are unpaved.  Some are smooth, some are suitable only for 4WD vehicles with high clearance.  Much of the plateau is on Forest Service or BLM lands, so road maintenance is infrequent and road names or numbers inconsistent.  Further, maps arean't always accurate and many of the "roads" aren't even on maps.  Needless to say, it is an adventure to drive up there and anybody's guess when you might find your way back home.

I had noticed a week earlier that trees along the San Miguel River were staying green later than other areas.  Therefore, I still had time to find fall colors there after many areas had passed their peak.  I decided to visit that area, but to get there by driving over the Uncompahgre Plateau rather than the perfectly good paved highways.  Leaving Montrose, I drove the Dave Wood Road to the southwest, passing several canyons and the opportunities to explore on their very rough roads.  There were also patches of aspen trees, most at their peak color.

Numerous ranches along the way illustrate how isolated ranch life can be.  Still, the size of some of the houses emphasized how profitable such a business can be.

The views of the mountains are a bonus for the landowners.

Eventually, I found my way off the plateau near the San Miguel Valley.  The trees along the red cliffs and the river were also near their peak, my timing was excellent. I stopped for a while at a lovely county park with a swimming and fishing pond.


After exploring the tiny villages of Placerville and Sawpit, I turned onto a Forest Service road with no idea where it might lead.  The road sign said "Fall Creek Road" so I expected waterfalls.  Unfortunately, the small cascades in the creek just didn't meet my waterfall expectations.  On the other hand, about eight miles up the rocky road I came to Woods Lake, a pleasant surprise.  A hike around the lake gave me some great views of mountains to go with the fall color.

Later, as I returned down Fall Creek Road, I noticed a spur road and decided to take a chance on it.  In addition to good fall color, the road led me into a very nice area of homes on very large lots and spectacular mountain views.  All in all, I felt like it had been a very successful day.

1 comment:

  1. Some fantastic aspen photographs . . . amazing that they come from one root . .