Land exchange benefits hunters and recreationists

There’s no more “Widowmaker.”

Thanks to a recent land swap between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and ExxonMobil, hunters and recreationists now have improved access to previously hard-to-reach public lands in the Piceance Basin.

Several difficult-to-navigate ATV tracks have been eliminated, including the one known locally as the “Widowmaker.”

The newest state parcel is the Colorow Mountain State Wildlife Area, a 1,500-plus acre block located north of Colorado Highway 64 and Rio Blanco Lake SWA, northwest of Meeker.

In return, the state agency swapped about 900 acres along Piceance Creek, including a small hunter campground that will be closed.

“We thank ExxonMobil for their cooperation in this mutually beneficial land swap,” Area Wildlife Manager Bill de Vergie of Meeker said. “The public, hunters and, of course, the wildlife will benefit from the excellent habitat found on this new state wildlife area.”

The swap had been discussed for several years and gained momentum recently when ExxonMobil starting talking about developing some energy leases it owned on the state land adjacent to Piceance Creek.

“We hated giving it up but they have the leases and the right to develop them and we figured we need to get something out of the land that would benefit wildlife and sportsmen,” de Vergie said. “Now, we have access to some really neat country, including about half-a-dozen BLM sections north of Colorow Mountain that historically were hard to get to.”

As part of the exchange, ExxonMobil now controls a ribbon of land along Piceance Creek including what formerly was called the Square S hayfields along Rio Blanco County Road 5.

De Vergie said the public roads crossing the Piceance Creek area, including CR 22 to the Little Hills Game Experiment Station, are expected to remain open, allowing public access to state and BLM lands east and west of the Piceance Creek Road.

Colorow Mountain SWA will be managed for both off-highway and conventional passenger vehicles.

“We opened Tschudi Gulch about three-quarters of the way up, where ATV riders can access a BLM road and BLM lands to the north,” de Vergie said. Rio Blanco Country Road 143 goes up Tschudi Gulch.

Scenery Gulch, east of Tschudi Gulch, will be limited to foot and horseback only, he said, offering hunters a variety of access means.

Two small campgrounds also have been developed.


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