Take a short trip to Kodels Canyon to see Collared Lizards at their best

Collared Lizards like this one can be easily seen in Kodels Canyon, just west of Colorado National Monument in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.


Kodels Canyon

Drive time and distance: 15 minutes, 12.7 miles

Length: 3.5 mile loop with numerous spur trails

Hiking Time: 2-3 hours

Difficulty: Easy to semi-strenuous

This Collared Lizard was Bad to the Bone. Standing up, puffed out chest, chewing on a twig, colors ablaze in the afternoon sun, it was the baddest collared lizard on this trail through Kodels Canyon, just west of Colorado National Monument in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.

This bad dude lives only a few miles from town, and you can see him and his buddies en masse right now. Go west on Interstate-70 to the Fruita exit (No. 19). At the top of the ramp, navigate through the roundabouts and head toward the monument (to your left) on Colorado Highway 340. Travel across the Colorado River and pull off the right-hand side of the road a couple of yards past the Kings View Estates turnoff, about 1.4 miles from I-70. There’s a small graveled area where you can park.

At the trail head, you’ll spy a Bureau of Land Management signs directing you onto a trail system established for Kodels, Devils, Flume and Pollock Bench trails. The Kodels Canyon Trail ranges in elevation from 4,500 feet to about 5,100 feet. The first part of the trail is easy, but the last part is a little more strenuous.

At the start of the trail, you’ll head west, then southwest and down toward the wash. The trail forks in several places and BLM signs mark trails K1 and K2 at the first fork. I traveled on the K1 stretch to begin this week’s hike, although you could stretch it out a bit by taking the K2 trail to K3. You could easily take K1 to K3, or take K2 to K1, back to K7.

The “K” stands for Kodels, just as “D” designates trails in Devils Canyon and “P” stands for Pollock Canyon trails.

It’s handy to have the BLM’s “Devils Canyon and Pollock Bench Trail System” brochure, so you can learn your KDPs. All these trails are marked on that brochure, available for free at the BLM office near the airport in GJ.

The trails here are managed as “Designated Trails Only.” Open trails are signed and marked. The BLM is closing and rehabilitating numerous excess routes through this area. You can help by staying on the designated trails. In the long run, it will provide for a much better trail system, but no matter which trail you stumble upon here, you’re sure to get a good hike!

And, this time of year, you’re sure to see a Collared Lizard, Crotaphytus collaris. This colorful guy ranges from southwestern and south central United States to northern Mexico. It lives mainly south of the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado and south of the Roan Plateau in western Colorado. Although it may be found as high as 8,000 feet in elevation, it’s most common below 6,000 feet, according to “Amphibians and Reptiles in Colorado,” written by Geoffrey A. Hammerson.

The collared lizard inhabits rocky canyons, slopes, gullies, exposures of bedrock and other rocky areas,” according to Hammerson. “They emerge from their underground winter retreats in Late March or April and are active throughout summer.”

Speaking of activity, there’s a lot going on next weekend around here:

On May 21 at 11 a.m., Colorado National Monument will host its Centennial Celebration Ceremony outdoors in front of the Visitor Center under a large festive tent. A giant birthday cake and light refreshments will be served after the ceremony. Keynote speaker will be U.S. Senator Mark Udall.

Also next Saturday, from 9-11 a.m., prior to the big birthday bash, everyone is welcome to join Dr. Deborah Kennard, assistant professor of Environmental Sciences and Technology at Mesa State College, on a little hike in the McInnis Canyons NCA.

Come see what wildflowers are blooming in mid-May on the Pollock Bench Trail, just down the road from Kodels Canyon, and just west of the Colorado National Monument. Please register for this hike by calling 970-263-7902. More information is available at http://www.coloradocanyonsassociation.org.

By the way, Dr. Kennard, along with Richard Ott, are the newest members of the Colorado Canyons Association board of directors. Ott is also a partner at Dominguez Archaeological Research Group working in all three NCA’s in this area — Dominguez-Escalante, Gunnison Gorge and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Areas.

On May 22, you’re invited to join the fun at the Grand Opening of the Heritage Garden at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens. Eight years in the making, this garden is a celebration of the history and heritage of the Grand Valley. The Gardens are located at the end of Seventh Street and the Riverside Parkway, “Where Seventh Street meets Nature.” It’s at the very epicenter of the Colorado Riverfront Trail, so ride your bicycles on over to the Grand Opening at 2 p.m.


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