Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dolores River-Lone Dome Historic Ranger Station

The Lone Dome Recreation Area is the 12 mile stretch of the Dolores River from below the McPhee Dam to the Bradfield Bridge, east of Pleasant View in southwest Colorado. Forest Road 504 provides easy access parallel to the river. In this area the Dolores River is changing from an alpine stream to a canyon stream. The flow is controlled at the dam.

 There are two campgrounds in the area. I drove seven miles along the road and started hiking upstream at the Ferris Canyon campground, which has about seven camp sites and appears to be open all year. There is a short trail from the campground to the banks of the Dolores.

The campground has an interpretive sign discussing bald eagle sightings in the area. They can be best spotted in winter months hunting fish and birds from the cottonwood trees, and eagles also take advantage of winter killed deer and elk.

 The easiest walking is along the gravel road. In fall, as well as spring there isn’t much traffic along here. The south side of the road close to the river is mostly open grassy fields that also provide easy walking. About 1.5 miles east of the Ferris Canyon campground are the ruins of two old log cabin structures.

 The Forest Service map of the San Juan Forest shows a site for the Lone Dome Ranger Station, the first ranger station of the Montezuma National Forest in 1912. I looked for an interpretive sign to provide more information, but didn’t see one.

There is a pullover area along the gravel road with an old trail leading to these riverside structures. There are also some ranch related structures close to the road.

Along the north side are sandstone cliffs that look like they could support Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites. The well watered location with oak, Pinon Pine and Junipers, and Ponderosa Pines, and a broad canyon bottom looks like a favorable location, but I didn’t spot any ruins from the road in the south facing cliffs.

In the north facing cliffs there is a small alcove that looked interesting as a possible archaeology site, but it was a long distance away. My total hike from the campground to the cabin ruins took 1:40 hours for about 3 miles. It was a 55 F early November day.

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