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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Browns Park

September 7th, 2012 · 7 Comments

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At first sight Browns Park does look brown this time of the year.

Approaching Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Colorado (Canon 7D with 10-24mm lens at 24mm, f/16, 1/350, ISO 800)

Approaching Browns Park National Wildlife Refuge in Northwest Colorado (Canon 7D with 10-24mm lens at 24mm, f/16, 1/350, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

But Browns Park is all about the Green. It’s about the Green River.

This isolated valley is 35 miles long by five to six miles wide. It begins in far eastern Utah about 25 miles downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam and follows the Green River downstream into Colorado, ending at the Gates of Lodore in Dinosaur National Monument. It seems to have been named for Baptiste Brown, a French-Canadian fur trapper who came there in 1827, and at first people called it Brown’s Hole. But explorer John Wesley Powell, who led the first expedition down the Green and the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in 1869, called it Brown’s Park, a more appropriate and attractive name for this basin. Still later, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which doesn’t like possessive apostrophes, changed the name to Browns Park.

The valley’s isolation made it a haven during the late 19th century for outlaws like Butch Cassidy. Even today it’s so isolated that not one person in Boulder who I have mentioned it to has ever heard of Browns Park. It’s so isolated that the nearest place to get a bed is 60 miles away. That’s the reason why two years ago, when I visited Browns Park for the first time, I only passed through the area in the middle of the day — not the best time for nature photography. On this visit I camped out in the refuge’s “Crook Campground.” No one else, crooks or otherwise, were in the the campground for the two nights I stayed there.

Home on the Range (Canon 7D with 50mm lens, f/16, 1/250, ISO 400)

Home on the Range (Canon 7D with 50mm lens, f/16, 1/250, ISO 400)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

In the old days living in Browns Park was even more primitive. At the end of Beaver Creek Trail I came across this early homestead.

An Early Home in Browns Park (Canon 7D with 10-24mm lens at 10mm, f/8, 1/180, ISO 200)

An Early Home in Browns Park (Canon 7D with 10-24mm lens at 10mm, f/8, 1/180, ISO 200)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

What Browns Park lacks in people it more than makes up in wildlife. One day I was gazing at the Green when an Osprey flew downstream. Ospreys feed almost entirely on fish, and this one had landed in the river but had missed.

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Takes Off from the Green River (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 285mm, f/9.5, 1/1000, ISO 800)

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) Takes Off from the Green River (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 285mm, f/9.5, 1/1000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

On another day I stopped my SUV along a Browns Park road to take photos of a row of beebalm in flower. I got more than I bargained for. Appropriately, I got there just as a bee came in for a landing.

A Bee Prepares to Land on Beebalm (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8.0, 1/1000, ISO 400)

A Bee Prepares to Land on Beebalm (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8.0, 1/1000, ISO 400)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Then, I spotted a hummingbird. This one also prepares for a sweet meal.

This Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) is Ready for Breakfast (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 285mm, f/8.0, 1/2000, ISO 800)

This Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) is Ready for Breakfast (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 285mm, f/8.0, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

As beautiful as they are, I had seen many bees and Rufous Hummingbirds before. But I had never even heard of anything like what I next saw feeding on a flower. At first I thought that it was a strange type of hummingbird. Then when I asked Refuge Manager Steve Barclay, he thought that it was a moth. And yesterday I got Colorado Buterflies & Moths from the library and was able to identify it as a White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata). “Active at all hours, its hovers like a hummingbird,” the book says. I wasn’t surprised to read elsewhere that it is also known as the hummingbird moth.

A White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) Hovers Like a Butterfly (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 285mm, f/8.0, 1/3000, ISO 800)

A White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) Hovers Like a Butterfly (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 285mm, f/8.0, 1/3000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

When I asked the refuge manager for his recommendations about where to hike, he suggested that I hike between the river and Straddle Bottom, which are wetlands about a mile long that straddle the Colorado-Utah state line. I liked the hike so much that I went all the way around it. Near the end I heard a big crash to my right. When I looked, I saw this moose.

A Shiras Moose Watches Me (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 390mm, f/8.0, 1/1000, ISO 800)

A Shiras Moose Watches Me (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 390mm, f/8.0, 1/1000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

But it was another moose that had alerted me to their presence. When this big bull moose, one of the largest animals in Colorado, stopped to look at me, I took this shot.

A Bull Moose Stops in the Wetlands (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 380mm, f/8.0, 1/1500, ISO 800)

A Bull Moose Stops in the Wetlands (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 380mm, f/8.0, 1/1500, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Soon, however, the bull was off and dashing through the water.

Dashing Through the Water (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8.0, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Dashing Through the Water (Canon 7D with 100-400mm lens at 400mm, f/8.0, 1/2000, ISO 800)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Browns Park ends at the Gates of Lodore. When I first visited the area two years ago, I had tried hard to find it, but never could locate the road there. But now with new signs I found it easily this time.

I especially wanted to see the Gates of Lodore because I knew of both its beauty and its history. It is a deep canyon of the Green River with treacherous rapids within Dinosaur National Monument. John Wesley Powell’s first expedition named it in 1869 after the famous onomatopoeic poem “The Cataract of Lodore” that the English poet Robert Southey had written in 1820 about Lodore Falls in England’s Lake District.

The Gates of Lodore on the Green River within Dinosaur National Monument

The Gates of Lodore on the Green River within Dinosaur National Monument

Click on the picture above to enlarge

On my one and one-half mile roundtrip hike to this viewpoint overlooking the Gates early one morning I saw not a soul. Then I returned home to Boulder, to the benefits of civilization, and to people. But I miss the wild.

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 vickie stewart // Sep 28, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Almost felt like I was on vacation

  • 2 Richard Crouse // Mar 17, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you for the article about Brown’s Park aka Brown’s Hole. My grandfather, Charles Crouse, was a pioneer in Brown’s Hole. My aunt, Minnie Crouse, met with Robert Redford when he was there researching his book about the”outlaw trail”. Ladore Hall is located where the very primitive one-room school was located that the Crouse children & others attended to the 8th grade. I learned from the BLM personnel Charles’ ranch was located near the John Jarvie place still maintained by the BLM & open for tourists. What a joy to see your photos of the area. My wife & I were able to visit the area a few years back. Thank again. From Cut and Shoot, Texas- Richard

  • 3 David Mendosa // Mar 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Dear Richard,

    I’m glad to share my photos with you and appreciate hearing more about the history of Browns Park.

    Namaste,

    David

  • 4 Mandi Shearer // Jul 27, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Hi my name is Mandi and Iv been going camping at browns park my whole life and my dad could never find the indian caves and I was wondering if you know the location of the caves?

  • 5 David Mendosa // Jul 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Dear Mandi,

    I don’t know the Indian Caves. But if anyone does, it would be the Refuge Manager, who last I heard was Steve Barclay. I don’t have his phone number with my now, but you can call him at (970) 365-3616.

    Namaste,

    David

  • 6 William Lambdin // Sep 7, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    David Mendosa:
    For the Fort Collins, Colorado, Senior Voice newspaper, may we use your photo of “An early home in Brown’s Park” for a story we plan on that part of Colorado and its association with outlaw Butch Cassidy? We will use any credit line you
    send us. We are a small retirees’ publication and cannot pay for the photo, but we will direct readers to your website, or whatever you prefer. Thank you. William Lambdin, Editor. Email: thevoice@frii.com.

  • 7 David Mendosa // Sep 7, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Dear William,

    I would be honored. Thanks for asking.

    With metta,

    David

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