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Proposal Areas

Woods Lake - 11,970 acres (18.7 square miles)

The proposed Woods Lake Addition is a westward extension of the Holy Cross Wilderness Area reaching from the Wilderness boundary to existing roads. It includes parts of Lime Creek, Little Lime Creek, Last Chance Creek, and all of Middle Creek, which support healthy and extensive riparian willow ecosystems. Woods Lake itself is a large natural lake. The terrain consists of gently rolling hillsides covered in aspen, lodgepole, and spruce/fir forests. There are two major peaks on the boundary of the unit (Charles Peak and Burnt Mountain), both of which have alpine characteristics. The unit contains the northeast portion of Lime Park, which is the most extensive meadow system in the Fryingpan drainage, as well as limestone cliffs with an extensive karst cave system. The elevation ranges from 8,800 feet at the North Fork Fryingpan River to 12,050 feet at Charles Peak.

What’s special about it?

Wildlife migration: It provides a critical mid-elevation addition to the high peaks of the Holy Cross region. It also provides an important wildlife movement corridor between the Red Table/Gypsum Creek/Basalt Mountain areas and the Holy Cross Wilderness via Crooked Creek Pass.
Ecology and hydrology: Because the proposed Woods Lake Wilderness Area is adjacent to existing Wilderness, it has retained significant wilderness quality. The southern portion of the unit is in the Colorado Natural Heritage Program’s North Fork Fryingpan River Potential Conservation Area. The area has unique karst hydrology, in which large volumes of water flow underground through limestone caverns and discharge from springs. This has led to the development of many caves, which in turn provide rare habitat for sensitive bat species. In a meadow northwest of Tellurium Park, at the junction of the Woods Lake and Tellurium Lake trails, there is an unnamed stream that plunges hundreds of feet into a narrow sinkhole, where the stream continues underground. Drop a stone down there and listen for the splash about four seconds later. The hydrology of these Karst formations is closely connected with what happens on the surface — protecting the surface assures unimpaired function of the Karst system and sustains the ecology of these unique caves.
Recreation: This unit surrounds the Peter Estin and Harry Gates Huts in the 10th Mountain hut system, and is a popular backcountry skiing destination. It also provides excellent opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and cave exploration.

Potential threats
Logging: A timber sale has been proposed just outside of the roadless area west of Bald Mountain. While not intruding into the proposed Woods Lake wilderness area, it underscores the need to protect intact habitat when possible due to the continued modification of unprotected lands. Motorized recreation: The area’s relatively flat, open meadows may invite illegal motorized route development. New road development would disrupt the surface hydrology, which in turn would impair the Karst cave system’s hydrolgy below.

Division of Wildlife habitat qualities, species of significance
Wood’s Lake area is adjacent to the Holy Cross Wilderness. The area is composed of a variety of habitat types ranging from willowed riparian areas to alpine scree fields. Two 10th Mountain huts, Peter Estin and Polar Star are located within the area.
CDOW management recommendations:
With the unique mix of large expanses of unfragmented habitat and private land in-holdings, this area requires unique management. The existing roadless areas should be preserved to insure that the large variety of wildlife using the area retain the high quality habitat that is currently present. Additional roads will add stress and dispersal of animals out of the area. Hat Creek requires specific attention with no new or improved access points to the stream to preserve a sustaining Colorado River cutthroat population.  Improved access will lead to degradation of the riparian habitat that will affect the stream and trout population.

Outreach results
Many carefully crafted adjustments have been made to the boundary of this proposal to accommodate continued snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle use, ensure maintenance access to municipal water supply facilities, accommodate popular bicycling routes, and enhance access for big game hunting. See table of adjustments for details.

Other info

The proposed Woods Lake Wilderness Area is the largest of ten Roadless Areas that adjoin with the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, to form a roadless complex of over 165,000 acres (257 square miles). The USFS has recommended 9,553 of these acres to be included in Holy Cross Wilderness Area. Conservation groups have identified 4,803 additional roadless acres on the north end of Woods Lake Roadless Area, stretching from Peter Estin Hut to Fulford and the Polar Star Inn.

How to get there

There are three main access points into the proposed Woods Lake Wilderness Addition to the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, all of which are closed in winter.

  • From Eagle, drive south on Brush Creek Road, which becomes FS 400 at the forest boundary. After about two miles East Brush Creek Road (FS 415) branches off to the left (east), and travels to Yeoman Park. There is a campground here and a winter road closure. To reach the north end of the RA, take Hat Creek Road (FS 416) up the hill to the west. This road winds back to the SE and eventually reaches the Peter Estin Hut on the Lime Ck/Brush Ck divide. This is the northern boundary of the unit. From the hut, you can take the Charles Peak Trail (1873) east into the Holy Cross Wilderness, or navigate south on an abandoned trail down the west fork of Little Lime Creek to Crooked Creek Reservoir. There is also a 10th Mountain winter route that goes south from the hut into Lime Park, and allows passage to the Harry Gates Hut, which is on the western boundary of the unit.
  • From Crooked Creek Pass, on the Eagle-Thomasville Road (FS 400), you can take FS 416 NE to the Peter Estin Hut (see above). To reach Woods Lake, go SE from the pass, turn left on Burnt Mountain Road (FS 506), and take another left on Woods Lake Road (FS 507) which reaches the lake after 1.5 miles. The lake is on private land, but there is a trailhead for the Eagle Lake Trail (1915) which takes Lime Creek into the Holy Cross Wilderness, and the Woods Lake Trail (1928), which climbs SE toward Tellurium Park.
  • To reach the Tellurium Lake Trail (1917) and the Last Chance Trail (1945), take FS 506 south from the Lime Park/Woods Lake area (see above). If approaching from the Fryingpan River, bear left on the North Fork Road (FS 501) at Biglow, a couple of miles past Thomasville, and take FS 506 from its south end, near Elk Wallow campground. The Last Chance/Tellurium Lake Trails make a nice loop (with a bike shuttle), and can be used to access Josephine Lake in the Holy Cross Wilderness.
  • The USGS 7 1/2' quads for proposed Woods Lake Wilderness Area are Crooked Creek Pass, Mount Jackson, Meredith, and Nast.