I arrived early with high hopes yesterday only to discover Hell has come to Eleven Mile Canyon By sunrise hoards of fishermen had already arrived and were roaring up and down the canyon at high speeds. I was driving slow to look into the river and up in the trees for wading birds and raptors, but every time I looked in my rear view mirror there was another truck riding my ass.
Raptors in Hiding
Construction was already in full swing at the base of the eagles nest and it appears the fledglings have departed. Much to my surprise there was a lone adult resting at a safe distance from all the traffic, construction and dense clouds of dust.
Rather than intently watching the water for a fish, the osprey watched the chaos from the top of a dead tree high on a ridge far above the river. After one perilous journey up the canyon and back, I found the lone raptor right where it was when I arrived.
I had hoped the raptors would be unaffected by the construction. The adult eagles are usually gone by now but it appears mother eagle is staying behind to witness the complete spectacle first hand. After what I saw unfold on this day, I will actually be surprised if the eagles and osprey return next spring.
They would be wise to take up residence further downstream. The stretch of river between Eleven Mile and Cheeseman is quite rugged and will remain undisturbed by man’s machines for the forseeable future. According to the topo maps, it appears there are no roads providing easy access to the river channel for many miles.
In addition to the rude big city fishermen, a fleet of big rigs were also roaring up and down the canyon. At one point I encountered one on the narrow road above the cliffs. I had to pull terrifyingly close to the edge in order for the huge truck to squeeze by my position, the truck missing my side mirror by inches.
On my return trip, I was unable to even see the road from the great clouds of dust stirred up by all the traffic. As I approached the tunnel I was unable to see the entrance at all, I just kept driving in hopes that the shade of the tunnel would provide a bit of visibility for me to enter.
Change of Plans
After one pass through the canyon I decided to head west, to Cottonwood Pass west of Buena Vista. I was hoping to see some bighorn sheep there, but a lone mule deer doe was the only animal in the thin air, save for a few chipmunks. As always though, the high mountains of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness were stunning in their color and majesty.
At the 12,600 foot crest of the pass I parked and climbed to the overlook to get some pictures. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I can still wander around at 13,000 feet with no problem. I was doing just fine when people much younger than myself were laboring and struggling to breathe in the thin air 🙂
White Water Rafting
I also wanted to capture a few white water rafting pictures for my stock image library but once again, man and his machines thwarted my plans. Scott’s Bridge at the Numbers rapids is the best place to shoot the whitewater but upon arrival I encountered huge boulders placed there to prevent parking.
A Solitary Success
By the end of all this I was hungry and thirsty so I checked my phone once I got back to Buena Vista. A new microbrewery showed on my search, so I turned my truck southward. I thought it would be found in Johnson’s Village, but the GPS kept me going south for four more miles. Suddenly I was there, the Browns Canyon Brewing Company was there like an oasis, as part of the Browns Canyon Rafting Company.
Despite being small and out of the way I found the beer to be quite tasty and the food to be excellent. I had the special of the day, which was a wonderful cheesy and meaty quesadilla! I highly recommend this place.
A Few Good Images
Despite all the adversity, I was able to capture a few nice images, please enjoy 🙂
Follow photographer and wildlife activist Caleb as he evolves from his beginnings as a fashion photographer in the Bay Area of California into a wildlife photographer and animal welfare activist in the Rocky Mountain West. Caleb through his many exciting and sometimes dangerous adventures he learns he must risk his life to battle ruthless ranchers and hunters to save the wild animals he has learned to love.