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Field Notes Blog

What is Browns Canyon?

Interested in learning more about one of our nation’s newest national monuments? Here’s a quick overview of our beloved Browns Canyon.

What is a national monument?

A national monument is similar to a national park. The main difference lies in the reasoning behind the protection. National monuments are preserved more for their historical and cultural significance while national parks are preserved because of environmentally based concerns, educational purposes, and recreational usages. National monuments are areas of land the government either control or own that are set aside for open use by the public. They are managed by at least one of the seven federal land management agencies. Browns Canyon is managed by both the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

How does an area receive national monument status?

The first way to obtain national monument status is through Congress passing legislation. The second and most popular route is through the Antiquities Act used by the President of the United States. This act was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to foster the protection of scientific and historic interests within our great nation. Presidents take into account the input from local individuals and the existing activities that are being pursued publicly and commercially.

Browns Canyon Facts according to the U.S. Forest Service

  • President Barack Obama deemed Brown’s Canyon a national monument in February of 2015, and he expanded public land more than any other president, designating 23 national monuments (totaling over 3.9 million acres) during his time in office.
  • The protected area of Browns Canyon encompasses 21,589 acres including 11, 836 acres of the San Isabel National Forest and 9,750 acres of the Bureau of Land Management.
  • The elevation of Browns Canyon ranges from 7,300 feet to 10,000 feet and it is nestled 11 miles north of Salida and 10 miles south of Buena Vista.
  • Ruby Mountain Recreation Site and Hecla Junction Recreation Site, the only developed campgrounds and public ramps in the canyon, are managed by the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and require Colorado Parks and Wildlife annual or day pass.
  • American Indians such as the Ute and Jicarilla Apache resided here for over 13,000 years during the Paleo-Indian and early Archaic periods.
  • The wide array of wildlife includes: both large and small game animals including elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, red fox, and coyote.
  • Visitors have access to rafting, fishing, kayaking, biking, hiking, and stargazing all within a single day of adventuring.
  • This section of the Arkansas River was awarded the honor of gold medal waters for the outstanding trout fishing.
  • The Arkansas river that flows within the canyon and is famed as being the #1 stretch of whitewater in Colorado and one of the top rafting spots in America!!

See it for yourself!

Now that you know all about Browns Canyon, head over to Buena Vista’s Favorite Rafting Company of 2016 (according to the Chaffee County Times) to see the beauty of this National Monument firsthand and to experience some of the finest whitewater in the nation!