|Comanche National Grassland|
|Location||Baca, Otero, and Las Animas counties, Colorado, USA|
|Nearest city||La Junta, CO|
|Area||443,081 acres (1,793.09 km2)|
|Established||June 23, 1960|
|Governing body||U.S. Forest Service|
|Website||Comanche National Grassland|
Comanche National Grassland is a National Grassland located in southeastern Colorado, United States. It is the sister grassland of Cimarron National Grassland and contains both prairie grasslands and canyons. It is separated into two sections, each operated by a local ranger district, one of which is in Springfield and the other of which is in La Junta. The grassland is administered by the Forest Service together with the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, and the Cimarron National Grassland, from common headquarters located in Pueblo, Colorado.
Comanche National Grassland consists of 463,373 acres (187,520 ha) in two units: (1) Timpas, south of La Junta, and (2) Carrizo, south of Springfield. Both units have privately owned tracts of ranchland mixed in with the government-owned land.
Elevations on the grassland range from 3,900 feet (1,190 m) in the southeastern corner of the Carrizo Unit on the Oklahoma border to 6,200 feet (1,890 m) on Fallas Mesa in the northwestern part of the same unit. Average annual precipitation on the grassland ranges from 12 inches (300 mm) at La Junta to 17 inches (430 mm) at Springfield. Summer temperatures are hot with the average high above 90 °F (32 °C); winters are cold with average low temperatures in January below 20 °F (−7 °C). Vegetation is mostly steppe and shortgrass prairie, although pinyon and juniper trees are found in rocky canyons and cottonwoods and willows grow near streams. Western soapberry and netleaf hackberry are common in some areas near canyon bottoms, as well as some larger Gambel oak. Chickasaw plum and fragrant mimosa are occasional on uplands within grass cover. A few ponderosa pines are found on cool, moist hillsides. Wildlife on the grassland includes pronghorn, prairie dogs, lesser prairie chickens, mule deer, elk, wild turkey, golden eagle, swift fox, and infrequent roadrunners. Three hundred and twenty-eight species of birds, including many Eastern birds at the limit of their range, have been recorded in Baca County where most of the Carrizo unit is located.
Most of the Carrizo Unit is in the watershed of Carrizo Creek, a tributary of the Cimarron River. The Timpas Unit is in the watershed of the Purgatoire River, also called the Purgatory and Picketwire River.
The marks of ancient American Indians are found in the Grassland in petroglyphs on many of the rocks and cliff faces in the canyons. Some of the rock art may be as old as 8,000 years and some are so new that they depict horses which arrived in the Southwest with the Spanish in the 16th century. [ clarification needed ]. Apache inhabited this area when the Spaniards arrived. They were pushed southward by the Comanche in the 18th century. Tipi rings – stones holding down the edges of circular tipis – are common.The early Indians lived in rock shelters, some of which have been found in the Grassland, and practiced a hunting and gathering culture. Around 1000 AD, a people called the Apishipa began farming in the region, however their efforts were unsuccessful
A branch of the Santa Fe Trail ran through the Timpas unit and from the 1820s onward wagon trains from Missouri and Kansas loaded with goods for New Mexico followed the trail. Among the first non-Indian settlers on the Grassland was a group of eleven New Mexican families who settled along the Purgatory River in 1871. In the same year, Eugene and Mary Rourke established a ranch nearby.Homesteaders soon followed the ranchers and much of the grassland was devoted to growing Broomcorn. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s defeated the farmers and the Federal government bought the land comprising the present National Grassland from its bankrupt owners. Comanche National Grassland was established in 1960. Grazing permits for cattle are issued by the Forest Service to ranchers for most lands belonging to the National Grassland.
An important addition occurred in 1991 when the U.S. Army transferred 16,000 acres (6,500 ha) of land in the Purgatoire River Canyon to the National Grassland. The Army lands were part of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS), a 238,000-acre (96,000 ha) facility devoted to military exercises. However, In 2007, the Army announced a plan to expand the PCMS by purchasing additional land and seeking to transfer the lands of the Comanche National Grassland to Army ownership. The expansion plan, to be implemented in several phases, would increase the size of the PCMS to several million acres, making it the largest military base in the United States. If implemented, the plan would virtually eliminate private land ownership and ranching in Southeastern Colorado as well as abolish the National Grassland and displace 17,000 people. Local citizens and politicians protested the expansion plan of PCMS. On 25 November 2013, the Army announced that its plan to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver site had been cancelled.
Picketwire Canyon is about 400 feet (120 m) deep and contains the Purgatoire River track site, one of the largest dinosaur track-ways in the world, in the Morrison Formation. More than 1,300 tracks of Brontosaurs and Allosaurs 150 million years old are preserved in the rocks. Comanche Paleontology brochure The canyon and the dinosaur tracks are accessible by a hiking, biking, and horseback trail that leads 8.7 miles (14.0 km) one-way through the canyon to the Dolores Mission, the ruins of a small 19th century Catholic church, the dinosaur tracks, and the adobe-buildings of the Rourke ranch, which operated between 1871 and 1971 and is preserved as a National Historic Site. The trail is normally closed to motorized vehicles, but, on weekends, rangers lead guided tours into the canyon in all-wheel drive vehicles. Visitor must supply their own vehicles.
Vogel Canyon. This is a side canyon of the Purgatory River. There is a picnic area and eight miles of easy trails follow the mesa top or lead into the small, scenic canyon which has springs, old ruins, and rock art.
Santa Fe Trail Historic Sites. The Sierra Vista Overlook, Timpas Picnic Area, and Iron Springs preserve a section of the Santa Fe Trail. The overlook has a view of the Rocky Mountains, 75 miles (120 km) away. Stone posts indicate the Santa Fe Trail and can be followed on foot for three miles between Sierra Vista and Timpas Picnic area. A one-half mile nature trail leads to Timpas Creek, one of the few watering holes along this section of the Santa Fe Trail.
Picture Canyon . Located just north of the Oklahoma border Picture Canyon was named for its prehistoric rock art. It is a small canyon with easy slopes, large springs, picnic tables, and a loop hiking trail 2.6 miles (4.2 km) long. A six mile round-trip hike can be taken by going west from the parking area into the Nort (or Holt) Canyon. On the western side of Picture Canyon is Crack Cave with walls full of rock art. One group of petroglyphs in the cave is illuminated by sunlight for only ten to twelve minutes at sunrise during the Spring and Autumn equinox. The cave is locked except during the equinoxes when tours are allowed to visit and view the illuminated petroglyphs.
Carrizo Canyon. A well-watered canyon with rock art, picnic tables, a hiking trail, and fishing for Channel Catfish in Carrizo Creek.
Cottonwood Canyon One of the best birding areas in Colorado. A campground on private property is at the entrance to the 5-mile long canyon which is bisected by a road and bordered mostly by private property.
Campo Lek. The only publicly accessible lesser prairie chicken lek (display ground) in Colorado. The lek is often closed due to the decline of the prairie chicken population.
Primitive camping is allowed on all lands of the Comanche National Grassland except for Picketwire Canyon. Hunting is permitted for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, wild turkey, and small game. Colorado state regulations apply.
Baca County is a county located in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 3,788. The county seat is Springfield. It is located near the state borders with Kansas and Oklahoma.
U.S. Highway 350 (US 350) is a 73-mile-long (117 km) northeast-southwest United States highway located entirely within the state of Colorado.
The Santa Fe Trail was a 19th-century route through central North America that connected Franklin, Missouri with Santa Fe, New Mexico. Pioneered in 1821 by William Becknell, who departed from the Boonslick region along the Missouri River, the trail served as a vital commercial highway until 1880, when the railroad arrived in Santa Fe. Santa Fe was near the end of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which carried trade from Mexico City.
Black Mesa is a mesa in the U.S. states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. It extends from Mesa de Maya, Colorado southeasterly 28 miles (45 km) along the north bank of the Cimarron River, crossing the northeast corner of New Mexico to end at the confluence of the Cimarron River and Carrizo Creek near Kenton in the Oklahoma panhandle. Its highest elevation is 5,705 feet (1,739 m) in Colorado. The highest point of Black Mesa within New Mexico is 5,239 feet (1,597 m). In northwestern Cimarron County, Oklahoma, Black Mesa reaches 4,973 feet (1,516 m), the highest point in the state of Oklahoma. The plateau that formed at the top of the mesa has been known as a "geological wonder" of North America. There is abundant wildlife in this shortgrass prairie environment, including mountain lions, butterflies, and the Texas horned lizard.
The Cimarron River extends 698 miles (1,123 km) across New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. The headwaters flow from Johnson Mesa west of Folsom in northeastern New Mexico. Much of the river's length lies in Oklahoma, where it either borders or passes through eleven counties. There are no major cities along its route. The river enters the Oklahoma Panhandle near Kenton, Oklahoma, crosses the southeastern corner of Colorado into Kansas, reenters the Oklahoma Panhandle, reenters Kansas, and finally returns to Oklahoma where it joins the Arkansas River at Keystone Reservoir west of Tulsa, Oklahoma, its only impoundment. The Cimarron drains a basin that encompasses about 18,927 square miles (49,020 km2).
Curecanti National Recreation Area(Pronounced or .) is a National Park Service unit located on the Gunnison River in western Colorado. Established in 1965, Curecanti National Recreation Area is responsible for developing and managing recreational facilities on three reservoirs, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Morrow Point Reservoir and Crystal Reservoir, constructed on the upper Gunnison River in the 1960s by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to better utilize the vital waters of the Colorado River and its major tributaries. A popular destination for boating and fishing, Curecanti offers visitors two marinas, traditional and group campgrounds, hiking trails, boat launches, and boat-in campsites. The state's premiere lake trout and Kokanee salmon fisheries, Curecanti is a popular destination for boating and fishing, and is also a popular area for ice-fishing in the winter months.
Cimarron National Grassland is a National Grassland located in Morton County, Kansas, United States, with a very small part extending eastward into Stevens County. Cimarron National Grassland is located near Comanche National Grassland which is across the border in Colorado. The grassland is administered by the Forest Service together with the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Comanche National Grassland, from common headquarters located in Pueblo, Colorado. There are local ranger district offices in Elkhart, Kansas. The grassland is the largest area of public land in the state of Kansas.
Kenton is a census designated place (CDP) in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, United States. Kenton is the westernmost town in Oklahoma. From Kenton, it is approximately 155 miles (249 km) south to Amarillo, Texas, 237 miles (381 km) northwest to Colorado Springs, Colorado, 306 miles (492 km) northwest to Denver, Colorado, 314 miles (505 km) southwest to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and 361 miles (581 km) southeast to Oklahoma City, the nearest major population centers.
Kiowa National Grassland is a National Grassland, located in northeastern New Mexico. The southwestern Great Plains grassland includes prairie and part of the Canadian River Canyon.
Castlewood Canyon State Park is a Colorado state park near Franktown, Colorado. The park retains a unique part of Colorado's history, the remains of Castlewood Canyon Dam. Visitors can still see the remnants and damage from that dam which burst in 1933. The event sent a 15-foot (5 m) wave of water all the way to downtown Denver resulting in a flood. Also contained within the park is the historic Cherry Creek Bridge.
Devil's Head Lookout is a U.S. Forest Service fire lookout tower at the summit of Devils Head in Douglas County, Colorado. Located on a large pinnacle of Pikes Peak granite, the fire lookout point lies within the Pike National Forest and is accessed by hiking the Devils Head National Recreation Trail.
The Purgatoire River is a river in southeastern Colorado, United States. The river is also known locally as the Purgatory River or the Picketwire River. Purgatoire means Purgatory in French. French trappers named the river to commemorate Spanish explorers killed in a Native American attack.
The Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is a 235,896 acre (955 km2) U.S. Army base in southeastern Colorado. The Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS) is a training site for Fort Carson. The proposed expansion of PCMS by the army has encountered opposition from local citizens and conservation groups.
Aiken Canyon Preserve is a 1,621-acre (6.56 km2) Nature Conservancy-managed state property in Colorado. It was first observed and named after Charles Aiken who was a 19th century U.S. surveyor, pioneer, and ornithologist who first surveyed Aiken Canyon in the 1870s and identified more than 75 bird species. The preserve consists of foothills, shrub and woodland ecosystems and is 12.4 miles southeast from Colorado Springs located on the eastern slope of the Rampart Range which is within a smaller foothill system of the Front Range. The surrounding mountain ranges of the Rampart Range and Palmer Divide created the nature preserves sustainable ecosystem. There is also a four-mile (6 km)-loop hiking trail on the preserve.
The Black Kettle National Grassland, in Roger Mills County, Oklahoma and Hemphill County, Texas, contains 31,286 acres (12,661 ha) of which 30,710 acres (12,430 ha) are in Oklahoma.
North Fork Cimarron River is a 169-mile-long (272 km) tributary of the Cimarron River that flows from a source in Comanche National Grassland in Baca County, Colorado. It joins the Cimarron River west of Satanta in Haskell County, Kansas.
Picture Canyon, located in the Comanche National Grassland in southeastern Colorado, was named for its prehistoric rock art. There is evidence of prehistoric inhabitation of sites in Picture Canyon by Paleo-Indian, Archaic and Post-Archaic cultures, from about 12,000 years ago to 400 years ago. In addition to rock art, there are also carvings in walls that are used to identify the entry into fall and spring equinoxes.
La Placita was a small 1890s Hispanic settlement located in southeastern Colorado in the Purgatoire River Valley. The name "La Placita" is the New Mexican Spanish word for small plaza. It is located south of La Junta and east of Trinidad on the grounds of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS).
The Mesa de Maya is a prominent volcanic tableland rising 500 feet (150 m) to 1,200 feet (370 m) above the Great Plains in southeastern Colorado. A narrow finger of the mesa extends eastward through the northeastern corner of New Mexico and a few miles into Oklahoma where it is known as Black Mesa. The elevation of the Mesa de Maya ranges from 4,800 feet (1,500 m) at its easternmost extension to 6,902 feet (2,104 m) in the west.
The Manitou Park Recreation Area is a recreation area in the Pike National Forest, located 5.2 miles (8.4 km) north of Woodland Park along Colorado State Highway 67 in Teller County, Colorado. The recreation area includes several campgrounds and a picnic area, the Manitou Lake Picnic Area.
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