Earth Day(s) Walk in Dominguez Canyon Wilderness


Sunrise on Big Dominguez Creek, Dominguez Canyon Wilderness, Colorado

Whatcha gonna do on the planet today? New Riders Of The Purple Sage

We found ourselves kicking off the backpacking season during Earth Day week, a three day trip that felt just right. Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area was just designated wilderness in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 and is within the larger Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area. We accessed at the Bridgeport trailhead, south of Grand Junction and a few miles of gravel road west of Highway 50. “Untrammeled” is written into the Wilderness Act of 1964: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The idea of wilderness is one of the mast brilliant things our country has ever done, yet Dominguez Canyon is largely defined by its importance to man. Human history is quite literally written in stone. From the BLM brochure: “Red-rock canyons and bluffs hold geological and paleontological resources spanning 600 million years. Rock art on the canyon walls and archaeological sites on the mesas are evidence of thousands of years of Native American use, including hunting and travel from the Gunnison River Valley to the Uncompahgre Plateau. The wilderness also contains historic features left by the early miners and settlers who lived and worked throughout the area.” Today, its archeological treasures are protected, along with the resident desert bighorn sheep herd, collared lizards, mountain lion, black bear, mule deer – too many flora and fauna species to list here. As you ascend along Big Dominguez Creek pouring cold water off of the Uncompahgre Plateau, it’s easy to see why humans and wildlife have thrived here for thousands of years. It’s a magical place to explore and revel in the tranquility, to soak in the idea of wilderness.


Petroglyph panel along Big Dominguez Creek, pecked by ancient hands. This stone panel tells us how biologically rich Dominguez canyons are.


I found this stone on a lunch stop, white and catching sun, standing out from the red rock landscape. Running my fingers over it, I thought of someone 1,500 years ago, taking great care to select the right stone, to carve a shape and edge for a projectile or maybe a skinning tool. I returned to the spot where I found it.


Roughing it. Marla’s homemade blueberry nut coffee cake, cinnamon apple chips, and egg. Mmmmm!


Claret cup cactus bloom.


Crossing the Gunnison River into the wilderness from the Bridgeport trailhead.


Spring cottonwoods on a curve in Big Dominguez Creek catch morning light.


Marla gathers water in a rainstorm. The Sweetwater filter and MSR dromedary bag are a necessity for our water intensive backpacking style.


Lichen on stone. Time is measured in millennia here.

9 thoughts on “Earth Day(s) Walk in Dominguez Canyon Wilderness

  1. That was a great kick-off to the backpacking season Walt! So fun with you and you captured it nicely here. Gorgeous photos! Can’t wait for the next one….. 🙂

  2. I took quite a few trips to Dominguez Canyon during my year in Paonia. Amazing place – I especially remember hiking there on the first warm day after a lot of snow, as hundreds of little waterfalls started pouring off the walls.

  3. A great adventure more in your lifes.. Marla and Dave, we hope everything is going well.. All photos are amazing! Thank you so much for sharing with us!! Big hug from Huaraz-Peru

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