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Proposal Areas

Basalt Mountain -12,150 acres (19 square miles)

Setting
The Proposed Basalt Mountain Wilderness covers the northern portion of Basalt Mountain and a heavily forested portion of the upper Cattle Creek drainage. It is a large area, separated from the even larger proposed Red Table Wilderness to the east by the soon to be decommissioned 4WD Taylor Creek Road, and contiguous with adjacent BLM roadless land to the west. It ranges in elevation from 7,000 near the Fryingpan River to 11,000 feet near the Red Table Mountain crest, covering a wide variety of landforms and vegetation types. Some south-facing slopes are very steep, but much of the area is rolling terrain with mixed sagebrush/grasslands that yield to oak/piñon/juniper and aspen or dark timber, depending on elevation.  The top is capped with a stand of old growth spruce-fir. Open boulder fields and cliffs of eroded basalt rock are scattered throughout the area.

What’s special about it?
Geology: Basalt Mountain is an ancient shield volcano, with south-facing basalt-rock cliffs. Farther east, dramatic amphitheaters and formations, like the Seven Castles, have been carved into the underlying sandstone, towering above the Fryingpan Valley.

Ecology: The Proposed Basalt Mountain Wilderness has a high degree of naturalness and provides critically important low-elevation habitat in the Roaring Fork Valley and a wildlife movement corridor between the mid-valley wintering grounds and the high elevation summering range on the Proposed Red Table Mountain Wilderness. Most of these lands are classified as high habitat priority by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Lower elevations are winter range for elk, deer and bighorn sheep. The dense old growth spruce-fir forest on top of the mountain provides important elk security habitat, some of the only available such habitat in the immediate region. The area safeguards sensitive elk calving and lynx habitat. Bighorn sheep and black bears can often be seen in the southern portion, with historical peregrine falcon sightings. Imperiled Colorado River cutthroat trout inhabit Cattle Creek. The globally rare Harrington’s beardtongue penstemon is also found in the area. The ecosystems within the area are underrepresented within the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Recreation: Basalt Mountain is an important and easily-accessible elk hunting area. It is a popular destination for hikers, cross country skiers, and horseback riders, and provides the scenic backdrop for communities in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley. It also provides an extensive mountain bike trail system adjacent to but unaffected by the proposed wilderness.

Potential threats
Old-growth logging has been proposed for the portion atop Basalt Mountain, and allowing new road construction could enable that dormant project to awaken. Without protection, much of the area remains vulnerable to renegade, illegal motorized use and bandit mountain bike trail development. New roads, forest thinning and harvesting, fuel reduction, and mechanized trail development through the old growth stand on top of mountain would eliminate the important elk security habitat it provides.

Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance
Vegetation within the area includes sagebrush, open meadows, pinon-juniper, aspen, oak, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir and spruce-fir. The steep slopes and red sandstone buttes of Seven Castles provides protection and production areas for bighorn sheep. The area provides summer, winter and transitional habitat for mule deer and elk. Black bear summer and fall range, Merriam’s turkey overall range and mountain lion overall range are also contained in this area. Lynx have been documented traveling through the area.

CDOW management recommendations: The existing roadless areas should be preserved to ensure that the diversity of wildlife using the area retains the high quality habitat that is currently present. Additional roads would add stress and cause dispersal of animals out of the area.

Outreach results
The boundaries for this proposal area have been modified to accommodate continued popular bicycling. The boundaries of this area were aqlso adjusted at the request of local snowmobile clubs to ensure existing routes to the top of Red Table Mountain remain open and follow safe routes along the ridge as well as pulling back the boundary to provide access to snowmobile play areas just south of the FAA navigation site.

Continuing discussions

We are currently discussing the proposal area with the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District.

How to get there
There are two main entry points to the Proposed Basalt Mountain Wilderness Area:

  • From Basalt, you can hike in from Lake Christine, which is just above the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Sopris Drive. It's about a 2-mile hike up a 4WD road through Division of Wildlife property before you enter USFS land and the Basalt Mountain RA. It's pretty much bushwhacking from here, although there is a vague trail that sidehills over to Cattle Creek.
  • From El Jebel, drive up to Missouri Heights and make a right on FS road 509, which forks after about a mile. The left fork descends to Cattle Creek and gives access to various hiking trails heading northwards. The right fork, FS 524, leads up the north side of Basalt Mountain.
  • It's also possible to access the area from the head of Toner Creek (off the Fryingpan Road) and from Red Table Road (FS 514) via Cottonwood Pass.
  • The USGS 7 1/2' quads for Basalt Mountain RA are Leon, Toner Reservoir, and Cottonwood Pass.