Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beaver Creek Massacre Trail

The Beaver Creek Massacre Trail is an unofficial hiking route in the San Juan National Forest on Roads 525 and 238 west of Dolores in southwest Colorado.

I started at the junction of Roads 525 and 526 which is about 9 miles past the turnoff for the House Creek Recreation Area on McPhee Reservoir. This junction is a spot where industry intersects with forest as major power lines and a gas compression station are in sight, not to mention cattle grazing and log trucks rolling through this multi-use area.

This is an area of Ponderosa Pine, Aspens and some wide meadows. I walked south about 0:50 minutes to the junction with Forest Road 238 which entered a large meadow. There were a some wildflowers in the meadow and good views back north towards the San Miguel Mountains.

The Beaver Creek Massacre site is at about the first mile point along this route. It commemorates a low point in settler-Ute Indian relations where on June 19, 1885 a group of cowboys ambushed a peaceful Ute camp. "The Utes must go!" had been white settlers’ rallying cry. The 6-10 Utes murdered that morning had official permission to hunt in this area in order to supplement their meager government rations.

There were Ute reprisals which caused considerable panic in the region and led to the building of Fort Narranguinnep nearby. Apparently the names of the cattlemen involved were kept secret until fairly recently even though the event was more than 100 years ago. There is a commorative marker at the Fort Narranguinnep site, with a few remains of the structure, and also room to hike in the forest.

The commemorative sign for the Beaver Creek Massacre was dedicated in 1983 but has fallen into disrepair. I spent 2:00 hours hiking out and back along this route. The Forest Roads continue much further than I hiked. The Historic site is only 15 minutes of hiking from the junction and can be driven to.

1 comment:

ddmannin said...

While The Beaver Creek Massacre is a travesty, the full story disserves to be considered.

The day before the massacre the ranchers rode into the Ute Hunting Camp to seek counsel with the Ute’s chief. The ranchers acknowledge the Ute’s right to hunt wild game in the area. But shooting their cattle would not be tolerated. By several accounts the chief became belligerent, saying yes they are your cattle but they are eating our grass. The Ute children were spooking the rancher’s horse by shooting at them with their play bow & arrows. The ranchers left.

The fourth picture is where the massacre took place. The Ute’s camped below the bluff near the creek.

The Ute’s were not part on the Ute Mountain Ute’s, probably a band relocated to Utah. There was one female survivor. I have found know information about her.