A previously published article about the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site in the Arkansas River Headwaters Recreation Area will provide plenty of information about the Browns Canyon National Monument setting. This new National Monument covers over 20,000 acres of pristine Colorado Rocky Mountain wilderness between Buena Vista and Salida and the Four Mile Recreation Area is right next door. Highway 285 is the main travel corridor through this area and the signage for the side road to the riverside recreation site is easy to spot. The Browns Canyon National Monument sign is actually placed at the southern end of the Ruby Mountain Recreation Site, which is also where a unique developed campground can be found on the river banks, which definitely qualifies as a basecamp for adventure.
For those who seek thrilling whitewater rafting adventures, there are several excursion companies to choose from along the Arkansas River. The river actually flows along the western edge of Browns Canyon National Monument, so a portion of this majestic destination can be experienced during a float trip. There are 4x4 and ATV trails in the Four Mile Recreation Area next to the Browns Canyon Wilderness access point, so part of this National Monument can also be viewed along those challenging rough dirt roads. Biking on those same trails is an option too, while those who set off on foot will have many more options, because Browns Canyon is well known as a hiker's paradise!
This region is the land of 14,000 foot tall mountains and the deep valleys are where the seasonal snow melt waters flow, yet there is much more to this geological arena than just the towering peaks. Because the continental drift moves west to the Pacific coast where tectonic plates collide, tremendous pressure builds, then the earth crust buckles and rises to create a geological upheaval, reef fault line or even a tall mountain range. Volcanic eruptions may happen too and the seismic activity can go off the scale when a long term mountain building event occurs.
The tremendous pressure and the related earthquakes work to fragment the surrounding solid bedrock as the mountains rise, especially on the eastern side of a range on a continent that is drifting west. After eons of time, erosive forces expose the fragmented bedrock in the high foothills and all sorts of unique rock formations can be seen. A good example of fragmented bedrock foothills on the eastern side of a towering mountain range can be found in the Alabama Foothills Recreation Lands next to the 14,505 foot tall Mt Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Browns Canyon is yet another good example of a fragmented bedrock foothill arena in the Rocky Mountain Range. This example is located practically right across the street from Mt Antero, which is nearly as tall as America's highest peak.
Because the Browns Canyon region bedrock was buckled and splintered, the eroded hills look like piles of gigantic boulders with many deep crags. In this unique area, geological oddities like hoodoos, towering rock spires and rounded huge granite boulders that are reminiscent of the Alabama Hills can be seen. Canyons branch off in all directions and the granite outcrop ridge lines are as picturesque as can be. Other than along the river, the Browns Canyon National Monument is basically managed as a vast protected area that shelters a critical wilderness. For this reason, the facilities are minimal and all the emphasis is placed upon nature viewing hikes. There are several trails to choose from and some are quite lengthy. Because of the eroded gigantic boulder pile terrain, a hike in this mountain wilderness is guaranteed to be challenging and there will be many obstacles to overcome.
As can be imagined, Browns Canyon National Monument is a very rugged area that offers moderate skill level hiking and some climbing opportunities will be found too. The reward for taking on these trails is the majestic views and an opportunity to experience the wildlife associated with a high desert mountain environment. This is the land of elk, mountain lions, eagles and bighorn sheep, so be sure to pack a good camera for trek. The hiking equipment for the Browns Canyon trails will need to be sturdy and the shoes should be skid proof for safety's sake. Packing extra water and snacks will be necessary too, because the high elevation can leave even the fittest person weak in the knees. The Browns Canyon region definitely is well worth exploring and setting up a basecamp by the Arkansas River will present an opportunity to catch a free fish dinner. All this is more than enough inspiration for making the adventure happen!
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