Crystal River - 6,175 acres (9.7 square miles)
In the Crystal River roadless area, with the exception of the Avalanche Creek valley floor, the terrain consists of very steep west-facing slopes towering 3,000 feet above the Crystal River and the Town of Redstone. These slopes include the massive red sandstone outcrops that give Redstone its name. The vegetation within the area consists of dense stands of Gambel oak and Aspen, as well as some Douglas fir and spruce/fir forest. The elevation ranges from 6,500 feet on the Crystal River to 9,422 feet above the Redstone Campground.
What's special about it?
The proposed Crystal River addition provides an important mid-elevation buffer along the west and southwest side of the high-elevation Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area. These slopes give access to the Crystal River valley for the area's abundant and diverse wildlife and provide critical winter range for bighorn sheep and elk. Look for bighorn sheep in Filoha Meadows across from Penny Hot Springs and on any cliff face between Potato Bill Creek to the north and Gallo Hill to the south. Peregrine falcons nest in the cliffs of this area, and Avalanche Creek supports a major fishery.
According to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Avalanche Creek, Kline Creek, and East Creek all contain important montane riparian forest habitat and are listed as Potential Conservation Areas. The unit is adjacent to the Kline Creek Research Natural Area. The Crystal River is also under consideration for Wild, Scenic, & Recreational River designation.
Because of the increasing development of private lands along the Crystal River, protecting the natural character of the lower elevation public lands takes on all the more importance. Though the rugged nature of the terrain within the area helps to limit the potential for timber or mineral exploration, an alabaster mine has been developed in lower Avalanche Creek, proving that potentially damaging resource extraction is an ever-present threat.
Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance
This area is a long narrow section of land bordered on the east by the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and on the west by the Crystal River. The cliffs above the Crystal River provide important winter range, and production areas for bighorn sheep and elk. The USFS and CDOW have agreed to seasonal winter closures along Avalanche Creek road in order to protect wintering big game animals. Increased roads and related impacts could have a negative impact on reproductive success and winter survival of big game animals in the area.
CDOW management recommendations: This area should remain roadless with no new trails or road construction, which will help protect winter range values and reproductive success.
The boundaries of this area have been adjusted to allow for highway maintenance and the use of power drills for bolted climbing routes. Additional lands were removed to allow for the construction of a future bike path. See Table of Adjustments for details.
How to get there
The proposed Crystal River Addition to the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area is located south of Carbondale, spanning 17 miles on the east side of the Crystal River. Access to the area is from State Highway (SH) 133.
- The short Nettle Creek Road (FS 313), 8 miles south of Carbondale, goes from SH 133 to the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness boundary. This is the northern boundary of the unit.
- Avalanche Creek Road (FS 310), 11 miles south of Carbondale and 5.4 miles north of Redstone, ends at the popular Avalanche Creek Trailhead. This trail (1959) enters the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness Area through the Crystal River roadless area.
- Two other trails pass through the area. To reach the East Creek Trail, begin at the north end of Redstone, 0.6 miles N of the Redstone bridge. Follow a 4WD road for 1 mile to the trailhead. To reach the Placita Trail, cross the Crystal River on a bridge 3.2 miles S of Redstone. Take a short dirt road to the trailhead. Both trails are very steep.
- The USGS 7 1/2' quads for the Crystal River RA are Mount Sopris, Redstone, Placita, and Chair Mountain.