Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dolores River at Bradfield-Lone Dome Recreation Area

The Bradfield Recreation Site is known as the upstream launch point for rafting trips on the lower Dolores River in southwest Colorado. It is located about 5 miles east of Pleasant View, CO and about 12 miles downstream of the McPhee Dolores River Dam.

At the entry point to the Bradfield site, there are some old ranch structures remaining from the big valley ranch era and some fading interpretive signs explaining the ranching history of the area and some facts relating to rafting on the Dolores River. Near the interpretive signs, there is a dirt road leading into the Lone Dome State Wildlife Area that heads upstream for about 2 miles, providing some scenic hiking in this area.

This route is probably mostly used by trout fishermen. The road stays close to the canyon side, cutting through the Pinon Pine and Juniper forest. From the dirt road, there are places to turn off and access the river bottom area and the bank. The main forest road that leads to the area below McPhee Dam is visible across the sparkling stream.

Besides trout, the Dolores River here provides habitat for River Otters, Beavers, Deer, Elk, Peregrine Falcons, and Turkeys. Bald Eagles can be sighted in the winter months After the construction of the McPhee Dam ensured year round flow in 1988-91, the Colorado Division of Wildlife transplanted 20 Otters to this area.

In mid April 2011, there are signs of a recent forest fire. It looked like most of the large trees survived, the branches showing spring buds despite the scorching on the trunks. About two weeks after the blaze, the burned area is starting to recover with some green grass poking through.

At the end of the dirt road, there are some large rocks placed to form a pool, raising the level and diverting some of the flow into a water management project. Along this last segment, there is a small ditch, a flow measuring flume, and some small water control structures. My total hike here took 1:50 hours for about 4 miles. It was a 56 F degree mid April day.

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