The Land: Mountains, Forests, Streams & Wildlife

Mineral County is primarily high-mountain country cut by a few prominent rivers and their valleys and canyons. A number of peaks are among Colorado's 'Fourteeners' - mountains topping the 14,000 foot mark. Creede itself is at an altitude of 8,852 feet (one caution: our altitude may take some getting used to, so figure on taking it easy the first couple days, drinking lots of fluids).

We host some of the headwaters of two major rivers of the southwest. The Rio Grande begins its 1,800 mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico on the east side of the Divide. On the other side the San Juan starts its course, flowing through New Mexico and Utah, as well as the Navajo (Dineh) Nation, Southern Ute Reservation, and other Native American holdings, to join the Colorado River near Lake Powell, and on to the Gulf of California. Together with numerous lakes, reservoirs and streams, this makes Mineral County an excellent fishing venue. Moose, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, bear, cougar, lynx, bobcat, beaver, and smaller mammals, waterfowl, birds and aquatic life are also abundant throughout the area.

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Headwaters of the Rio Grande and San Juan Rivers: Two mighty Southwest rivers rise in Mineral County’s San Juan Mountains. The Rio Grande, the third longest river in the U.S., is well known as the international border between Texas and Mexico. This great river begins high on the eastern slopes of the Continental Divide just west of Creede. Collecting water from many rivulets and smaller streams, including Willow Creek, which flows through downtown Creede, the Rio Grande gathers strength for its 1,800-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Tributaries of the San Juan River head on the Western Slope of the Continental Divide across from Spar City. This historic river dips into New Mexico, edges into Utah near the Four Corners, and joins the Colorado River just north of Lake Powell.

Mineral County is a vast recreation area with extraordinary public access. Roughly 900 square miles of mountains, forests, valleys, and canyons allow an incredible array of outdoor activities all year long. Ninety-five percent (95%) of the land area of Mineral County is publicly held, mostly in the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests. There are also two wilderness areas, the La Garita and the Weminuche, and state wildlife areas as well.

Mineral County is bounded by two magnificent wilderness areas: The Weminuche Wilderness defines Mineral County’s high country west of Creede with elevations rising from an average of 10,000 feet to peaks reaching above 14,000 feet. Named for a band of Ute people who lived in the area through the 19th century, the Weminuche spans the Rio Grande and San Juan National Forests to form the largest wilderness area in Colorado. Fifty miles of the Continental Divide passes through the Weminuche Wilderness area. Individuals do not need permits to enter Wilderness Areas but should register at trailheads. Outfitters or anyone else leading a group for compensation, even for a non-profit group, must obtain a Forest Service permit.

Highlights: North Clear Creek Falls  - Wheeler Geologic Area

This public land is administered by the National Forest Service and the BLM. The Rio Grande National Forest staffs an office in downtown Creede where maps, campground information, and a variety of guides may be obtained.

Rio Grande National Forest

Divide Ranger District - Creede Office
304 South Main St.   •   PO Box 270
Creede, CO 81130
719 658-2556

Hours:
Mid April and May, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday
June through August, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Sunday. Visitor Center is open Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day
September through November, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday
November to Mid April, Wednesday only 10:00 am - 3:00 pm

Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor's Office
1803 W. Hwy 160
Monte Vista, CO 81144
719-852-5941