Wilderness Wanderings: Happy Birthday to Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area
Happy 25th birthday, Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area. We’d love to join you Aug. 13 on your special day for a celebration hike but the Silver Creek Fire closure is going to keep us all away. Maybe someone will send the firefighters some cake and ice cream.
That’s two lightning fires in three years in your timber, as if the devastation from the recent pine bark beetle epidemic wasn’t bad enough.
But we would like to say that you’re looking good as the youngest of Northwest Colorado’s three designated wilderness areas. You’ve grown well into adulthood and any remnants of logging are now well hidden.
We’ve heard it was a bit of an effort to get everyone on board with wilderness status for you. Something about preserving the water rights that were deemed to belong to your land. That was 12 years of haggling you probably didn’t want to hear.
And there was the matter of removing 2,000 acres from the original proposal so there would be a proper buffer between you and the proposed Catamount Ski Area.
So that’s how it became 44,556 acres that was preserved for you and for future generations to enjoy, signed into legislation in Denver by President Bill Clinton on Aug. 13, 1993. Maybe you could get that acreage back some day.
That bill set aside a total of more than 750,000 acres for 19 new wilderness areas and six lessor protected areas. You were among the first new wildernesses in Colorado in 13 years.
Among those specially protected lands was the 20,750-acre Davis Peak addition to extend the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area northward to the Wyoming border. Maybe we should have a small celebration up there if it doesn’t hurt your feelings.
You were scarred for so long by Sarvis Timber Co.’s timber cutting from 1913 to 1918, but the lumber built quite a few homes and barns for early residents of the Yampa Valley. You should be pleased.
Lumberjacks were sure proud of the wooden water flume they built to help float logs down Sarvis Creek drainage to the Yampa River. Let’s hope what’s left of the flume will survive the fire.
You’re quite unique in our area with all your land below timberline and no tundra. You range from 7,004 feet to 10,734 feet. We always admire your rock boulders and steep cliffs while hiking your Silver Creek and namesake Sarvis Creek trails.
But we’ll probably have to wait until next spring for another visit — which we always look forward to. The lower ends of your trails are among the first in our area to be hikeable after the winter snows melt off. Our volunteers combine with the Yampa District trail crew to clear an average of 150 trees each year. But we expect that number to grow and our visits along with it.
So long for now, Sarvis.
Bob Korch is president and trail crew leader with Friends of Wilderness which assists the U.S. Forest Service in maintaining trails and educating the public about the Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops wilderness areas. For more information, visit friendsofwilderness.com.
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