· Canyon of the Ancients
Yellow Jacket Canyon
If you want to see Lucy’s Warbler in Colorado, you will have to come here. This location provides access to an extensive lowland riparian corridor, hard to come by in this part of the state. In addition to the warblers, look for Summer Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Yellow Warbler, Hairy Woodpecker, and migrants in season. In the extensive pinyon-juniper woodland on the drive in, look for Black-throated Sparrow, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Gray Vireo, Gray Flycatcher, and Scott’s Oriole. The area around here has the highest diversity of reptiles in Colorado, and spectacular species include Collared Lizard, Longnose Leopard-Lizard, Common Kingsnake, and Clark’s Spiny-Lizard. Be very careful to respect private property in the area. Most of the riparian grove is on private land; the part accessible to the public is the stretch north and east of the fence at the bottom of the hill on the road. Public property ends at the first large side canyon on the right as you head upstream. The first part of the entrance road, off of McElmo Canyon Road, passes through private land, so do not trespass in this area.
Habitat: Pinyon/Juniper Forest, Lowland Riparian, Stream
Directions: From the intersection of McElmo Canyon Road (CR G) and US-160/CO 491 just south of Cortez head west on CR G for 20.2 miles to an unmarked and gated road on the right. Open the gate and head north for 2.4 miles, heading straight over the cattle guard at a junction at 1.5 miles, past a national monument sign for Cannonball Mesa that is well off the road. Just before the junction at 2.4 miles you will cross a (usually) dry arroyo. Take a left at 2.4 miles onto an inconspicuous and rough track. Drive down it as far as you can and walk the rest of the way (about 1.5 miles total; bring water!). When you get towards the end of the road, you'll be getting close to the top of some short rimrock cliffs above the cottonwood gallery. If you're in the right place, the road should split shortly before the cliff. Take the right (lower) fork, but watch for a broken-down, unposted fenceline. Do not follow the road through the fenceline--it is the beginning of private property that birders are specifically forbidden from accessing. Instead follow the fenceline to the right, until you reach the top of the short cliff. Below you you'll see how the road does a hairpin turn and comes back out into public land through the continuation of the fenceline. Head right (northeast) along the cliff until you find a safe place to descend. Stay east of the fence. Everything down-canyon from here is private property; you can bird upstream from here to about the first side canyon on the right and stay on public land.
Delorme: 84 B1
Roads of Colorado: 128 B4
Dates of Access: Open all year
Restrictions: Be careful not to trespass on private land
Lodging: Primitive camping
Handicapped Access: None
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