The Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Area is one of only three areas in the western United States set aside for wild horse herds. It encompasses 30,261 acres of rugged canyons in the Bookcliffs northwest of Palisade. Eighty to 120 wild horses roam the sagebrush parks and pinion-juniper covered hills.
The Spaniard who explored the western United States reintroduced horses to the continent in the 1500s. These horses were known as mustaos. The ones that escaped from the early herds were later called mustangs. Some of the Little Bookcliffs horses can trace their ancestry back to the wild Indian ponies, but the majority are descendants of horses who escaped or were turned loose by farmers or ranchers.
Each spring, colts and fillies are born and the herd usually sees between an 18-20% increase. Volunteers and BLM Range managers work hard to monitor the health and habitat of the herd. There are roundups which result in some of these horses being put up for adoption with the help of the Friends of the Mustangs.
The best season for riding or hiking in the Little Bookcliffs Wild Horse Range is May to September.
Hoodoo/Spring Creek Trail Loop: 13.5 miles. Tellerico Loop Trail: 10.2 miles. The Coal Canyon Trail: Gate is open June through November (motor vehicle traffic is restricted through the remainder of the year).
The palisades and Mt. Garfield, rising approx. 6,800 ft. above sea level, are part of the Colorado Plateau. An uplifted ancient sea bed combined with localized erosion formed the sculptured appearance. The Ute Indians and fur trappers roamed the trails of the Bookcliffs during the past century. These trails are extremely steep, rough and challenging. Footing is unstable and slippery, especially when wet. There is no drinking water available along the trails. Carry plenty of water with you and stay on the trail.
Geologically, the Grand Mesa is a lava-capped plateau. Located directly east of Palisade, it is also the worlds largest flat top mountain. Over 300 stream-fed lakes are scattered across the Mesa, tempting fishermen with rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout. Several trails have been developed for horseback riding and bicycling with varying lengths and difficulties, along with two specially marked trails specifically for ATV and motorcycles. All camping facilities feature picnic tables, water, fire rings, pit toilets and are in wooded areas. There are NO RV hookups and NO dump stations nearby. Handicapped accessible sites are available at Little Bear Campground.
Winter activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, snowmobiling and downhill skiing at Powderhorn Ski Resort.
Five miles east of Palisade on Interstate 70 in scenic DeBeque Canyon, Island Acres can be enjoyed year-round for fishing, camping and picnicking. As the Colorado River and the erosion forces shaped the canyon, a large island was left in the middle of the river. The area was used as a campsite by trappers, explorers, and Ute Indians. From the early 1900s to 1967, it was a peach orchard and livestock ranch.
There are three lakes for fishing and a separate lake with sandy beach for swimming only. (No lifeguard).
Mule deer, skunks, cottontail rabbits, weasels, ducks, Canadian geese, hawks, bald eagles, blue herons, and bull snakes are common to the park and surrounding areas. Park fees apply.
The dominant feature of Palisades Riverbend Park is the Colorado River. Migratory waterfowl are commonly seen in the fall and spring. Some geese nest in or near the park and remain to rear their young. When using the trails, you may see families of beavers, wild turkeys, Great Horned Owls, and blue herons. Occasionally, mule deer with fawns are seen. About 150 resident and migratory species of birds are common to this part of Colorado.
The interplay of weather, animals, plants and floods along the Colorado River is an ever-changing spectacle that draws many residents for a daily walk. Early morning sunrise over the Grand Mesa, and late evening sunsets behind Mt. Garfield play tricks with light and shadows on the river, providing serene views through the cottonwood trees. Equally enjoyable is the great natural diversity found in Riverbend Park.
There are covered picnic areas along the 3/4 mile surfaced trail. The hiking/biking trailhead is located at the end of Brentwood Drive in Palisade, where the trail crosses the Grand Valley Irrigation Canal and follows along the Colorado River.
The Town of Palisades recreation department sponsors a variety of summer activities. June, July and August see host to programs such as softball, T-ball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, golf and crafts. Contact the Town of Palisade for more information and current schedule. (970-464-5602)
Opened in December of 1998 and built with the cooperation of the youth of Palisade, the Park Task Force, and the Town, this skate park provides a state-of-the-art recreational opportunity for avid skateboarders and roller bladers. With adjoining six-foot halfpipes, two rollovers, and a spine, the skate park has quickly become a center of activity.
The seasonal pool boasts some of the nicest water in the valley. Open from late May to September, the Palisade pool offers a variety of summer youth swimming lessons, adult swim and lap swim opportunities, as well as private parties.
(970-464-7174) Two newly built tennis courts opened in October 1999.
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