Thompson Creek is definitely one of the wildest places I've encountered, and unquestionably worthy of wilderness protection. On my first visit, I found a fresh elk kill at the trailhead -- if that's not wild, I don't know what is!
North Thompson Canyon reminds one of a western
slope "Garden of the Gods". It contains geologic
strata and vertical faulted hogbacks of the same geologic
era as that of the Colorado Springs phenomenon
and also includes an upwelling of gypsum
which formed the epicenter for a number of minor
earthquakes in the Carbondale area a few years ago.
Thompson Creek itself is a beautiful stream with
undisturbed woods ranging from cottonwoods and
ponderosa pine to scrub oak, pinyon-juniper, Douglas
fir, and aspen. The forests provide a haven for
wildlife including elk, bear, mountain lion, wild turkey,
and small game, as well as the ubiquitous deer.
Along with the striking vertical hogbacks, one is
surprised to find the remnants of trestles and the long
abandoned grade of the Aspen and Western Railroad
in the lower canyon. The railway grade and the Thompson
Creek streambed provide a track for hikers
and cross-country skiers that is unequaled for spectacular
The Bureau of Land Management has long recognized the beauty of the canyon and designated it an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Thompson Creek has also been considered as a possible addition to the potential Wild and Scenic River designation of the Crystal River. The White River National Forest's Assignation Ridge Roadless Area borders Thompson Creek on the south and continues the jumble of vertical red sediments paralleling the Crystal River. Joint administration of these two areas as a single wilderness would add an outstanding canyonlands-like parcel contrasting with the mountain wilderness in this region of the state.
Although no oil and gas development has occurred
in Thompson Creek Canyon, some of the area is
leased for oil and gas. Some seismic activity has
occurred just to the west of the unit. Future leasing
of the canyon itself is restricted to No Surface Occupancy.
Grazing exists along South Thompson Creek and Braderich Creek, but grazing does not conflict with wilderness designation.
Some prescribed burns have occurred on Assignation
Ridge to improve wildlife habitat, but the burns
do not affect the wilderness character of the area.
BLM has been conducting some small fuelwood sales on its lands to improve wildlife habitat, and these areas have been eliminated from the proposed boundary.
Thompson Creek is a perennial stream that drains
from White River National Forest lands above.
The proposed wilderness includes about 8,100 acres
of BLM land and roughly 17,000 acres of National
Forest land. For the most part, boundaries are defined
on the east and west sides by private property,
and in other places by roads or trails.
The boundaries were selected to include not only
the spectacular Thompson Creek Canyon, but also
the Braderich Creek backcountry trail. Both of these
areas include excellent opportunities for solitude and