8,960 acres (14.0 square miles)
The proposed Williams Fork Wilderness sits on the western flanks of the Williams Fork Mountains above the Blue River. The proposed Area is divided by at least fifteen small drainages that descend steeply from the ridge crest to Blue River. The elevation ranges from 8,000 feet near Green Mountain Reservoir to 11,200 near Williams Peak. The lower elevations are covered in aspen and grass/shrub steppe, with lodgepole pines up higher. The ridge crest contains alpine tundra and even some bristlecone pines, considered the oldest living species on the planet.
What’s special about it
Recreation: The rugged, undeveloped nature of this landscape provides a fine opportunity to find solitude. The ridge provides excellent views of the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness Area, as well as a wildlife corridor from the higher Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Area to lower BLM lands near Kremmling.
Geology: The Williams Fork ridge is a dramatic uplift with an exposed core of Precambrian granites and gneisses, Cretaceous shales, and sandstone, and it therefore provides outstanding geological scenery along the lower Blue River Valley.
Ecology: This proposal Area has been designated by the USFS as critical big game winter range and supports a large elk herd, as well as a sizable mule deer herd. The are is heavily used in the fall by hunters. The northern portion of the proposed Wilderness borders the Colorado Natural Heritage Program’s Horse Creek Potential Conservation Area, and has a high degree of biodiversity.
The unit is heavily used in the fall by hunters, as it is relatively easy to access, and teeming with wildlife.
Recreation: The primary threat to the wilderness character of this unit is illegal off-road 4WD use originating from private lands adjacent to the western boundary of the unit, or from the Williams Peak Road (FS 2950) on the top of the ridge.
Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance
The Williams Fork area is located on a deer and elk migration corridor and deer and elk winter range, and elk severe winter range, and winter concentration area. Greater sage-grouse use the area as winter range and there is potential habitat for sage-grouse lek.
As the result of extensive conversations with Summit County local officials, firefighting agencies, and the U.S. Forest Service, this proposal reflects boundary changes that ensure effective management of forest fuel loads, wildfire fighting, and community safety.
There are two active cattle allotments within the proposed Williams Fork Wilderness Area, with associated fences and stock ponds. Whereas the USFS has identified this area to be 6,684 acres in size, conservation groups have identified an additional 2,082 acres of wilderness-worthy lands to the north along the forest boundary. There is a section of undeveloped state land within the unit.
How to get there
- The proposed Williams Fork Wilderness Area is accessed from Green Mountain Reservoir on State Highway (SH) 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling. FS 200 climbs from SH 9 north of Green Mtn Reservoir to the Williams Fork ridge and runs SE. Its right (west) branch (FS 2950.5) is the eastern boundary of the proposed Wilderness Area. Several short roads that originate on SH 9 are cherry-stemmed into the unit, some of which may provide public access through private land. There are no maintained trails in this area.
- The USGS 7 1/2' quads for the proposed Williams Fork Wilderness Area are Squaw Creek, King Creek, and Battle Mountain.