Ruby Lakes - 2,428 acres (3.8 square miles)
This proposed wilderness addition occupies the enormous alpine bowl at the head of the Lincoln Creek drainage. The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area surrounds it on three sides. The proposed addition fills in the roadless portion of the access corridor that harbors Lincoln Creek Road, but leaves the road open. The Ruby Lakes area sits in the very scenic upper basin ringed by the Continental Divide to the east and the Lincoln-Tellurium divide to the west.
The Ruby Lakes addition features dramatic red mountainsides that dwarf the historic little cabins of the Ruby mining days. Vast quantities of annual snowmelt feed several lakes in the area, including Petroleum and Anderson Lakes, as well as the rarely visited Ruby Lakes, which perch on a bench southwest of Ruby. The proposed area features areas of Engelmann spruce/subalpine fir forest in areas below about 11, 800 feet. The rest of the area is a moist alpine wetland cradled between immense red hills. Elevations in the proposed area range from about 11,200 feet at the mouth of Galena Creek, to 13,631 feet at an unnamed peak that towers over Anderson Lake.
What's special about it?
Despite its location at the end of a popular access corridor, the Ruby Lakes addition receives few visitors and manages to be a very wild place. The basin is a wonderful example of an alpine wetland, and is the headwaters for a major tributary to the Roaring Fork River. The area is the scenic backdrop for the historic Ruby ghost town, which was developed in the 1880s to mine silver, lead, and gold. It was abandoned due to the difficulty of its approach, as you can still appreciate today. The area also features a fine hiking trail (FS 1991) to Petroleum and Anderson Lakes.
The mining history of the Ruby Lakes area has left a patchwork of privately owned claims, which are in-holdings within the public National Forest land. Several of these claims have been developed into private recreational cabins. While year-round residence at Ruby is unlikely to become popular, an increase in private cabin development would increase traffic to the area and possibly alter the wild character of Lincoln Creek Road. Others were at one point held by Amax Mines presumably for their molybdenum mining potential though their current status is unknown at this time. Wilderness protection would provide a protective buffer around any such future developments, as well as protect the water source of the Lincoln Creek drainage. The area certainly still bears the scars of the old mining days, but protecting it would ensure its continued recovery into beautiful alpine wildlands. The alpine wetland environment is especially sensitive to off-road travel and illegal trail development.
Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance
Not inventoried by the Division of Wildlife.
How to get there
The proposed Ruby Lakes addition to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area is located 16 miles west-southwest of Twin Lakes, 17 miles southeast of Aspen, and about 7 miles south-southwest of Independence Pass. The only approach is from Highway 82, which runs from Twin Lakes to Glenwood Springs via Independence Pass and Aspen.
- Lincoln Creek Road (FS 106; 4WD) provides the only access to rugged Ruby Lakes. From the corner of Cooper and Original Street in Aspen, drive 9.7 miles east on Highway 82 and look for the sign for Lincoln Creek Road at a dirt parking area. This turnoff is 33.2 miles west of the junction of Highways 82 and 24 near Twin Lakes.
- From the turnoff, cross the river and proceed along the sharp right turn on Lincoln Creek Road. Take this road for 6.0 miles to Grizzly Reservoir (high clearance advised), passing many primitive campsites along the way.
- Beyond Grizzly Reservoir the road is for 4WD vehicles only. Slowly drive the 4.5 miles (10.5 miles from Lincoln Creek Road turnoff) to the Ruby ghost town, or better yet, ride a mountain bike (it will be almost as fast). The proposed Ruby Lakes wilderness addition occupies the spectacular alpine basin beginning at Galena Creek on the west side of the road and extending beyond the end of road just past Ruby.
- The USGS 7 1⁄2' quads for the proposed Ruby Lakes addition to the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area are Independence Pass, New York Peak, and Pieplant.