The Uncompahgre Plateauin western Colorado is a distinctive large uplift part of the Colorado Plateau. Uncompahgre is a Ute word that describes the water: "Dirty Water" or "Rocks that make Water Red".
The plateau, with an average elevation of 9,500 feet (2,900 m), rises from the Colorado River 4,600 ft (1,400 m) to Horsefly Peak 10,300 ft (3,100 m). It continues on about 90 miles (140 km) southeast to the northwest margin of the San Juan Mountains. Its boundaries are the San Miguel and Dolores Rivers to the west, the Colorado River to the north and the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers on the eastern side.
Large canyons such as Big Red, Tabeguache, Spring Creek, Roubideau, Escalante, Big Dominquez, and Unaweep are separated by generally flat mesas. The Plateau watersheds include four tributaries of the Colorado River: Dolores River, Gunnison River, San Miguel River and Uncompahgre River.
The Uncompahgre Plateau includes about 2,290 square miles (5,900 km2) in five counties: Delta, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel.
The plateau is under the management of:
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Located in Southwest Colorado, the Uncompahgre Plateau is a high domed upland rising from the Colorado River. When it was formed, strong forces in the crust of the Earth forced the land to lift up.
Montrose County is one of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 41,276. The county seat is Montrose, for which the county is named.
Mesa County is one of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 146,723. The county seat is Grand Junction. The county was named for the many large mesas in the area, including Grand Mesa.
Gunnison County is the fifth-most extensive of the 64 counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 15,324. The county seat is Gunnison. The county was named for John W. Gunnison, a United States Army officer and captain in the Army Topographical Engineers, who surveyed for the transcontinental railroad in 1853.
Dolores County is the seventh-least populous of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 2,064. The county seat is Dove Creek.
Delta is the Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Delta County, Colorado, United States. The population was 8,915 at the 2010 census, up from 6,400 at the 2000 census. The United States Forest Service headquarters of the Grand Mesa, Gunnison, and Uncompahgre National Forests are located in Delta.
The Western Slope refers to a region of the state of Colorado incorporating everything in the state west of the Continental Divide. Bodies of water west of the Divide flow toward the Pacific Ocean. Water that falls and flows east of the Divide heads east. The Western Slope encompasses about 33% of the state, but has just 10% of the state's residents. The eastern part of the state, including the San Luis Valley and the Front Range is the more populous portion of the state.
The Gunnison River is a tributary of the Colorado River, 180 miles (290 km) long, in the Southwestern state of Colorado. It is the largest tributary of the Colorado River in Colorado, with a mean flow of 2,570 cu ft/s (73 m3/s).
The Dolores River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately 241 miles (388 km) long, in the U.S. states of Colorado and Utah. The river drains a rugged and arid region of the Colorado Plateau west of the San Juan Mountains. Its name derives from the Spanish El Rio de Nuestra Señora de Dolores, River of Our Lady of Sorrows. The river was explored and possibly named by Juan Maria Antonio Rivera during a 1765 expedition from Santa Fe.
The Grand Valley is an extended populated valley, approximately 30 miles (48 km) long and 5 miles (8.0 km) wide, located along the Colorado River in Mesa County in western Colorado and Grand County in eastern Utah in the Western United States. The valley contains the city of Grand Junction, as well as other smaller communities such as Fruita and Palisade. The valley is a major fruit-growing region that contains many orchards and vineyards, and is home to one of two designated American Viticultural Areas in Colorado: the Grand Valley AVA. It takes its name from the "Grand River", the historical name of the Colorado River upstream from its confluence with the Green River that was used by locals in the late 19th and early 20th century. The valley is the most densely populated area on the Colorado Western Slope, with Grand Junction serving as an unofficial capital of the region, as a counterpoint to Denver on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in the Colorado Front Range. Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6 run through the valley from west-to-east. The Grand Valley is part of the larger Colorado Plateau desert lands.
White River National Forest is a National Forest in northwest Colorado. It is named after the White River that passes through its northern section. It is the most visited National Forest in the United States, primarily from users of the twelve ski areas within its boundaries.
Uncompahgre National Forest is a U.S. National Forest covering 955,229 acres in parts of Montrose, Mesa, San Miguel, Ouray, Gunnison, Hinsdale, San Juan, and Delta Counties in western Colorado. Only its headquarters is in Delta County, in the city of Delta. It borders the San Juan National Forest to the south.
Unaweep Canyon is a geologically unique canyon that cuts across the Uncompahgre Plateau, Mesa County, in western Colorado. It is unique because two creeks, East Creek and West Creek, flow out of opposite ends of the canyon, separated by the almost imperceptible Unaweep Divide. State Highway 141 runs inside Unaweep Canyon between Whitewater and Gateway, one segment of the Colorado-designated Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic Byway. The Unaweep Divide, elevation 7,008 ft (2,136 m), is near mile marker 135 on SH 141.
The San Juan Skyway is an All-American Road and a component in the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway System. It forms a 233.0-mile (375.0 km) loop in the southwest part of the U.S. state of Colorado traversing the heart of the San Juan Mountains. It roughly parallels the routes of the narrow gauge railways: Rio Grande Southern ; and the unconnected Ouray and Silverton Branches of the Denver & Rio Grande along US 550 with the Silverton Railroad bridging a part of the gap. Its origin can be traced to the Around the Circle Route promoted by the D&RG.
The Gunnison National Forest is a U.S. National Forest covering 1,672,136 acres in Mesa, Gunnison, Hinsdale and Saguache Counties in Western part of the U.S. state of Colorado. It borders the White River National Forest to the north, the Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre National Forests to the west, the San Isabel National Forest to the east and the Rio Grande National Forest to south. It lies in parts of five counties. In descending order of land area within the forest they are Gunnison, Saguache, Hinsdale, Delta, and Montrose counties.
U.S. Route 50 (US 50) is a part of the U.S. Highway System that travels from West Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. In the U.S. state of Colorado, US 50 is a major highway crossing through the lower midsection of the state. It connects the Western Slope with the lower Front Range and the Arkansas Valley. The highway serves the areas of Pueblo and Grand Junction as well as many other smaller areas along its corridor. The long-term project to upgrade the highway from two lanes to a four lane expressway between Grand Junction and Montrose was completed in January 2005. Only about 25% of the remainder of highway 50 in Colorado is four lane expressway.
Kannah Creek is a watershed that descends from the top of the Grand Mesa west southwest, where it meets the Gunnison River about 25 miles south of Grand Junction, Colorado. It offers many recreational opportunities, irrigation, and is an important source of drinking water for Grand Junction. The Grand Mesa is one of the largest flat topped mountains in the world and has over 300 lakes and reservoirs on top, many of which are in the Kannah Creek watershed, which help retain much of Grand Junction's drinking water throughout the year as the snowpack melts and converts into runoff. Kannah Creek is also the namesake for the locally popular Kannah Creek Brewing Company. Kannah Creek is an extremely important source of water, originating on an elevated oasis, in an otherwise very arid region.
The Paradox Trail is located in western Montrose County, Colorado and traverses a route of over 118 miles (190 km) through various terrain. The trail was rerouted 17 miles due to a trespass issue near the Tabeguache area north of Nucla in 2017. The trail links with two other long distant trails in the region, the Tabeguache Trail to the east on the Uncompahgre Plateau and the Kokopelli Trail to the west in the La Sal Mountains of Utah. These three trails together form the "Grand Loop", a grueling 360 mile course.
The Dominguez–Escalante National Conservation Area is a 209,610-acre (848.3 km2) National Conservation Area located in western Colorado southeast of Grand Junction and northwest of Montrose. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and was created as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. In 2009 66,280 acres (26,820 ha) were also designated as the Dominguez Canyon Wilderness.
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