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Browns Park

Posted By David Mendosa On September 7, 2012 @ 12:01 am In Photography | 9 Comments

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) [1]

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) [2]

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) [3]

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) [4]

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) [5]

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) [6]

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) [7]

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) [8]

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) [9]

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) [10]

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 [11]” 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 [12]

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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