Snook’s Bottom on the rise

Former rough area in Fruita transitions into gateway of fantastic hikes

These massive Freemont Cottonwoods in Snook’s Bottom have survived floods, droughts, fires, chain saws and keggers, yet remain the backbone of this riparian habitat by maintaining soils, providing food and shelter for a tremendous amount of wildlife, windbreaks, erosion control and soothing shade.



Tiny bits of spring peak out from above the trail around Snook’s Bottom, located between the Colorado River and the “front country” of Colorado National Monument and McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area outside Fruita.



The city of Fruita points out things not allowed at this fine, open-space park, but the number of things that are allowed will thrill the average outdoor user, from hiking and mountain biking to fishing and wildlife photography.



QUICKREAD

Snook’s Bottom

Drive time and distance: 14 minutes; 14.3 miles.

Length: Mile or two or more.

Hiking time: 0 minutes to all day.

Difficulty: Easy.



Snook’s Bottom gentrified? You gotta be kidding!

When I first moved to town in 1977 as a sports reporter at Your Daily Sentinel, one of the first stories I wrote was about how the Fruita Monument High School football team performed a great community service by cleaning up a place known as Snook’s Bottom.

Snook’s Bottom was the local bonfire/kegger/make-out spot — that Saturday-night outdoor hangout with no adult supervision.

The Wildcats hauled out burned couches and pallets, shot-up televisions, empty beer bottles, glasses and cans, broken whiskey bottles, stained and discarded mattresses and other miscellaneous junk from this old gravel pit along the south side of the Colorado River near Fruita.

At least one dead body was discovered in Snook’s Bottom back in those days. That was not, however, found by the Wildcats’ football team, members of which had apparently partaken in one of those Saturday night bonfire/kegger/make-out parties — much to the dismay of the Wildcat coaching staff and parents.

That’s why the boys were schlepping couches out of the gravel pit.

Access to the area was limited for years after that, mostly by an active gravel-mining operation only a half-mile west of the Kings View subdivision.

I’m not sure if “gentrified” is the right word, but this area has made a remarkable transition. Today, visitors are delighted to find the Fruita Open Space Park in Snook’s Bottom, just across the Colorado River from the Fruita section of the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park.

There’s a full 18-hole disc-golf course, wonderful horseback riding, bicycle riding and hiking opportunities, a great little pond (former gravel pit) you can walk around, a whole bunch of jumpin’ rainbow trout you can angle for, numerous 200-year-old Freemont Cottonwoods, a bald eagle and her two eaglets, and an area free of couches, TVs and dead bodies.

The parking area is the jump-off spot for hikes along the Colorado River, up to Opal Hill, and around the pond. It’s also six-tenths of a mile from the Devils’ Canyon trail head and “front country” of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area.

This trail head reaches miles and miles of hikes and horseback rides in the Flume Canyon/Kodel’s Canyon/Devil’s Canyon area. Just down the road a little further is the Fruita Paleontological Area, Pollock Canyon area, and Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area.

Motorized vehicles are not allowed in Snook’s Bottom/Opal Hill past the parking area, which is large enough to turn a horse trailer around. The area is open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., and fires are no longer allowed after those wild days of yesteryear.

Dogs are allowed here on leash, and owners are advised to pick up after your own pet. Wildlife abounds here, and that’s why your dog is not allowed to run free. Also, don’t be shooting at those bald eaglets with anything but a camera. Some idiot shot one of the birds with buckshot last year. He ought to be shot.

The trails around this area are well-marked. Cross-country travel, other than that afforded by a leisurely round of disc golf, is prohibited in order to protect the fragile environment. Because of that, we all need to be a little more conscious about how our use affects others.

For example, horses don’t seem to like bicycle riders with helmets. If you see folks on horses and you don’t have much room to get around, get off the bike, take your helmet off and smile. That seems to help horse and horseman.

Conversely, horse riders are asked to ride in single file to reduce trail damage and to acknowledge others on the trail — hikers and bicyclists — who are really scared of horses.

This area is easily accessible. It’s just outside Fruita and only 12.7 miles from Fourth and Main in downtown Grand Junction.

The most scenic route takes you down Grand Avenue and across the Colorado River, to where Grand turns into Broadway. Stay on this. It’s actually Colorado Highway 340, and it will take you past the west entrance of the Monument. Turn left at Kings View Road, just before you get to the Colorado River. In another six-tenths of a mile, the pavement ends at the Fruita Open Space Park, and the Snook’s Bottom trail head.

But, is Snook’s Bottom really gentrified? My editors at Wikipedia insist gentrification is “typically the result of investment in a community by local government, community activists, or business groups, and can often spur economic development, attract business, lower crime rates, and have other benefits to a community.”

I guess that’s what happened to Snook’s Bottom.


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