Following a rafting trip down the Colorado River from Fruita to Westwater the day before, I planned to get the nearest confluence before heading home. I made my way through the Colorado National Monument where I updated my National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass - one of the best deals out there - for those who spend a lot of time in National Parks!
I was thwarted by a gate across A210 that had prominently displayed No Trespassing signs on either side. I did not feel comfortable crossing knowing that I would be leaving my vehicle unattended for a couple of hours while I hiked to the confluence from the north down Kings Canyon.
I had visited the Mesa County GIS office earlier in the week as part of a masters class I was taking. They maintain an excellent website and after I got back home, I spent some time researching this issue. The confluence itself and my planned approach through Kings Canyon are on BLM land. Mountain Island Ranch, LLC owns two non adjacent parcels of land that are transited by road A210 starting at their gate and sign. From the assessments, the stated Property Use is for Agricultural and Grazing and Irrigated Lands. A web search reveals they produce organic beef. Examination of the imagery with parcel overlays shows irrigated fields on both private and BLM land. A210 provides access to the BLM owned land on the south side of the Little Dolores River. On the BLM website , I found some interesting information:
Colorado law states that "no person may post, sign or indicate in any way that public lands within Colorado, not held under exclusive control or lease, are privately owned lands." It is unlawful to close a legal public access route or sign federal public lands with the intention of restricting public use. The BLM, USFS or Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) should be advised about access problems and the illegal posting of signs on Federal lands. Unless these situations are brought to the attention of agency officials, the problem cannot be corrected.
However, it also states:
Two-thirds of the land area of the State of Colorado is privately owned. It is unlawful to enter private lands in Colorado without permission of the landowner. Colorado law does not require private lands to be marked, fenced or posted in any manner. Depending on the circumstances, trespass in Colorado may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Additionally, the Colorado Revised Statutes state that "it is unlawful for any person to enter upon privately owned land or lands under the control of the State Board of Land Commissioners to take any wildlife by hunting, trapping, or fishing without first obtaining permission from the owner or person in possession of such land." The responsibility of knowing whether you are on private or public land is YOURS.
I’m not an attorney nor completely familiar with Colorado Right of Way laws but would be very disappointed if two small parcels of private land could prevent or prohibit right of way access to a large area of federal lands.
For future visitors, I would suggest contacting the landowner for permission to pass over these two parcels and back onto federal land.
All was not lost on this trip however, it was an absolutely stunning and visually breathtaking drive back through the Colorado National Monument!
Onward to 38N-109W !
As a postscript, with a little more research, I discovered another document
– the Mountain Island Ranch and the BLM are working a land exchange that would eliminate the problems of public access to federal lands!