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Proposal Areas

Red Table - 55,389 acres (86.5 square miles)

Setting
The proposed Red Table area is dominated by Red Table Mountain, an enormous 18-mile long sandstone massif that divides the Eagle Creek watershed from the Fryingpan River watershed. It is separated from the proposed Basalt Mountain Wilderness Area only by the long-abandoned and soon to be decommissioned 4WD Taylor Creek Road (FS 510).

The elevation ranges from 7,200 feet near the Fryingpan River to 12,000 feet at the top of Red Table Mountain. The terrain consists of vast areas of steeply rolling mountainsides covered with mixed conifer forests (Engelmann Spruce/Subalpine fir/Lodgepole pine) in the upper elevations, descending to equally vast aspen forests across the mid-elevations, which in turn yield to sagebrush, piñon/juniper, and gambel oak dominated shrub-lands at the lowest elevations. The ridge itself is just above timberline and supports an extensive alpine corridor. The north side of the massif contains over a dozen glacial cirques graced with small alpine lakes. The WRNF designated this area as Recommended Wilderness and it’s managed to preserve its wilderness character until Congress has the opportunity to consider the recommendation.

What’s special about it?
Geology/geography: From a volume standpoint, Red Table Mountain is surely among the largest massifs in the state. It runs east-west, providing a unique mid- and high-elevation corridor from the Colorado and Roaring Fork Valleys to the Sawatch Range and Continental Divide. Its vertical relief provides a diversity of habitat types, many of which are currently underrepresented in the National Wilderness Preservation System. It is a massive sandstone deposit of the Maroon formation and very rare paleontological evidence of an early reptile has been discovered there. This large area has had little historical disturbance and retains an excellent remote and primitive character. At least 40 separate drainages radiate from the crest of Red Table, providing outstanding topographical diversity.
Ecology: Red Table Mountain contains critical habitat for bighorn sheep, lynx, goshawk, and peregrine falcons, and is a calving area for deer and elk. The northwest portion of the proposed Wilderness Area has been identified by the Colorado Division of Wildlife as one of ten trophy big game areas in the state. A sensitive plant specie also lives in the area.
Recreation: Because it lacks any large lakes or 14,000-foot peaks, there has been little recreational tourism in the area, allowing it to provide great opportunities for solitude and challenge. The gently rolling terrain on its 18-mile ridge makes Red Table Mountain one of the greatest moderate ridge hikes in the Rocky Mountains, with excellent 180-degree views of five wilderness areas. The area is popular with hunters in the fall.

Potential threats
Illegal motor recreation: There are areas of this unit that regularly receive illegal use by motorized vehicles, especially motorcycles. The highest concentration of such use is in the Suicide Mountain area in the northwest portion of the proposed wilderness area, where several crisscrossing bandit trails have been blazed steeply through the forest. Illegal snowmobile and mountain bike use also occasionally occurs.

Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance

The Red Table area is located in Eagle County and is composed of a variety of habitat types ranging from willowed riparian areas to alpine scree fields. Current management is for dispersed recreation and elk habitat. This is a large and varied area which has multiple habitat types from mountain shrub, pinon-juniper, aspen, spruce fir and Douglas fir. Numerous cirque lakes are found below the ridge of Red Table Mountain. Access is currently available through the area which allows dispersal of big game hunters, high quality hunting experiences, and a harvest to help meet population management objectives.

CDOW management recommendations: This area possesses significant value as roadless. Maintaining it as roadless will minimize habitat fragmentation, minimize disturbance and stress to winter ranges, production areas. It is currently managed as a recommended wilderness area, and we recommend continuing this management.

Outreach results
The boundaries of this proposal area have been modified to accommodate continued use of a popular snowmobile area; ensure access to FAA navigation installations; allow operation and future expansion of essential municipal water supply facilities to accommodate the Town of Gypsum; and for a stream gauge used to implement existing water rights. We have also adjusted the boundaries of the area at the requests of ranchers, an outfitter, snowmobile clubs, and adjacent landowners. See table of adjustments for details.

Continuing discussions
Currently, the Colorado Army National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) conducts military helicopter training operations over and upon Red Table Mountain. These operations are an important element in preparing troops for military action. The HAATS program contributes both to local communities and to national security. We are committed to securing strong and enduring protection for the wildland features of Red Table Mountain, in a manner that ensures the continued operation of the important HAATS program.  We continue to work with ranchers who have grazing allotments in the proposal area to assist them in documenting their historical uses as preparation for operating in a wilderness area.

How to get there

  • From Gypsum, drive south on Valley Road which turns into Gypsum Creek Road (FS 412) at the forest boundary. This road provides access to the Sundell Trail (1863), which traverses the RA above Gypsum Creek, at two trailheads. Further up 412, you can make a long hike up the closed Red Creek Road (FS 425) to the crest of Red Table Mountain, which overlooks Ruedi Reservoir. From this spectacular location, you could continue down the Ruedi Overlook Trail (1912) all the way to the reservoir, or stay up on the Red Table ridge for unsurpassable views. Hike west on the closed Red Table Mountain Road (FS 514), or east on the Mount Thomas Trail (1870), which you can take all the way to Crooked Creek Pass. (These are long hikes). FS 412 also provide access to Lost Lake Trail (2224) , and ends at L.E.D.E. Reservoir, where the Antoine Lakes Trail (1871.1) and Antoine-Cabin Creek Trail (1871) begin.
  • From Eagle, drive south on Brush Creek Road, which becomes FS 400, and go to Sylvan Lake State Park. From here, FS 414 winds NW and connects back to FS 412 (see above). Continue south from Sylvan Lake on FS 400 to reach Crooked Creek Pass and the trailhead for the Mount Thomas Trail (1870), which combines with FS 514 to travel the length of the Red Table Mountain crest. You can also reach Crooked Creek Pass by driving north from Thomasville on FS 400.
  • From Cottonwood Pass, between El Jebel and Gypsum, you can drive on Red Table Mountain Road (FS 514) to its closure, and then continue on foot along the top of Red Table Mountain to meet the Mount Thomas Trail (1870). From Cottonwood Pass, you can also travel north to the Powerline-Cottonwood Road (FS 430), which makes up the NW boundary of the roadless area, and connects to Gypsum Creek Road (FS 412). FS 430 follows a large powerline and provides access to the Suicide Mountain area.
  • The area can also be accessed from the Ruedi Overlook Trail at the lower end of Ruedi Reservoir.
  • The USGS 7 1/2' quads for the proposed Red Table Wilderness Area are Cottonwood Pass, Leon, Suicide Mountain, Toner Reservoir, Red Creek, Ruedi Reservoir, Meredith, and Crooked Creek Pass.