· Canyon of the Ancients
It’s an undeniable fact — western Colorado is filled with awesome canyons. Even so, it is a rare place in which you can drive fifteen minutes from the nearest town, descend down into the canyon and surround yourself with soaring redrock walls while listening to the screams of nesting Peregrine Falcons from the shade of enormous old-growth Ponderosa trees. A campground at the bottom of the canyon, set amidst a large boxelder and scrub oak grove, is a good place to spend the night and to look for species such as Plumbeous Vireo, Green-tailed and Spotted Towhees, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Lazuli Bunting. If you are lucky you could hear Northern Saw-whet or Flammulated Owl during the night. A rough road travels north along the bottom of the canyon, making for either a fun 4×4 trip or a good hike. This is one of the few places in the state to find the flashy California Sister butterfly, and also one of the most reliable spots to see Striped Whipsnake. The other way to gawk at the canyon is to drive the road to the overlook, which passes through extensive ponderosa woodland and scrub-oak hillsides before reaching a point of land on a big bend in the river. Here, keep an eye out for species such as Grace’s Warbler, Cassin’s Finch, Western Bluebird, Pygmy Nuthatch, and Townsend’s Solitaire. Black bear have been seen along the road here, though you will be lucky to see one. Spalding’s Blue, a very local butterfly in Colorado, has been found along the south end of the overlook road.
Habitat: Cliff Face, Rimrock/Mesa, Pinyon-Juniper Forest, Stream, Lowland Riparian
Directions: To get to the canyon floor, drive southeast out of Dove Creek along US 491 about 0.5 miles and turn left on CR J.00, then left onto CR 9.00 in a short distance. Turn right on CR H.00 (0.4 m) and left on CR 10.00 (1 m). Follow CR 10.00 to the canyon bottom. This route is signed, but be careful in following CR 10.00 so as not to end up in the driveway of the last house along the route. To get to the overlook, start as above but remain on CR J.00 through various twists to a left turn (about 5.5 m) which should be signed. The overlook is at the end of the road (about 3 m).
Delorme: 74 B2
Roads of Colorado: 128 C1
Dates of Access: Open all year
Ownership: US Forest Service
Restrictions: Road to the overlook can be snowed in during the winter
Parking: Gravel parking areas
Handicapped Access: Limited
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