Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dolores River at Cabin Canyon and the Bradfield Bridge

The Riverside Trail is a short paved no barriers trail in the Cabin Canyon Campground in the Lone Dome Recreation Area of the Dolores River. This is about eight miles below the McPhee Dam in the San Juan National Forest in southwest Colorado, and four miles above the Bradfield Bridge.

The Dolores River below the McPhee Dam is a good trout fishing area with very little development. The gravel road has numerous turnoffs with river access and there are two campgrounds. The Cabin Canyon campground has the unusual feature of a paved 2200 foot trail with benches, picnic tables and a fishing deck suitable for handicap use.
The trail runs close to the bank of the Dolores River through the lush riparian habitat of willows and cottonwoods. This is the kind of trail that is usually seen in the middle of river towns like Durango and nearby Dolores.
The gateway to the Dolores River downstream of the McPhee Dam is the Bradfield Bridge. The bridge is on the site of the Bradfield Homestead which operated as a big valley cattle ranch from 1900 until about 1978. In this area cattle herds would cross the Dolores River and head up to summer pasture in the high country of what is now the San Juan National Forest.

This area is a transition from the mountains to the east to the canyon country in the west. The main scenic values of the Dolores River area downstream are geologic, steep canyons with layers of exposed rock.

From this put in site there are about 97 miles of river to float, through the Snaggletooth Rapids, past the Gypsum Valley, to a spot named Bedrock. The first section from Bradfield, to the Dove Creek Pump Station is suitable for canoes.

Near the Bradfield Campground area, there are two odd looking structures. There is an interpretive sign that describes these as derricks, or cable stackers. Using horses and cables, these were used to lift bales of hay into stacks. These devices were used until about 1940, when they gave way to mechanized hay balers.

Besides the Recreation Site there is the Lone Dome Wildlife Area where there is 2 miles of hiking up and down the river on a dirt road, giving some views of the river, the Dolores Canyon and the old Bradfield Ranch site.

1 comment:

Robert J Miller said...

I live in Fort Collins but am inspired by your blog to come hike southwestern Colorado. If you have time to visit the Front Range then check out some of the cool hikes I have documented for Rocky Mountain National Park and Lory State Park.

Also, if you have kids or pets check out child carrier backpacks and/or dog backpacks.