The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was enacted in 2020 and is the single largest investment in public lands in U.S. History. GAOA funding provides federal land management agencies with critical resources to address deferred maintenance on our public lands. Through this funding, the National Forest Foundation has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to plan, design, and implement projects that address overdue and much-needed maintenance on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests.

When the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) passed in 2020, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests submitted a project proposal to redesign and rebuild three campgrounds: Deer Lakes Campground and Day Use Area; Lake Irwin Campground and Day Use Area; and Little Bear Campground and Day Use Area. The GMUG and National Forest Foundation (NFF) agreed to collaborate to redesign the three recreation sites thanks to support from the Bronco Wild Fund and goodr, whose funding catalyzed GAOA dollars to help make this project possible.

Photo from Little Bear site visit

Draft plan from Deer Lakes Campground.

Deer Lakes Campground and Day Use Area is located on the Gunnison Ranger District of the GMUG National Forests, east of the historic mining town of Lake City, Colorado. Lake Irwin Campground and Day Use Area is also located on the Gunnison Ranger District - west of the charming Town of Crested Butte. Little Bear Campground is the third recreation site slated for reconstruction. It is located on the Grand Valley Ranger District, east of the City of Grand Junction on the Grand Mesa - North America’s largest flat-top mountain.

Since these sites were built between the 1960s and early 1980s, major components have fallen into disrepair. GAOA has presented the opportunity for updates beyond what is possible with agency routine maintenance budgets. Through partnerships, NFF has brought together recreation planners, landscape architects, and engineers to envision how the three sites can be improved to reduce natural resource impacts and improve visitor experiences. The design for each recreation site will have a special emphasis on accessibility for mobility-limited recreationists.

Photo by Bryce Baker.

Through the support of the Bronco Wild Fund and goodr, the NFF, alongside the Forest Service, will be able to include new picnic tables and fire rings, upgraded water systems, and new restrooms at these campsites. The day-use sites will also be updated to allow those wishing to spend time around the water to access the ponds and lakes at each site for wildlife viewing, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

When completed, the updates will ensure that these recreation sites are a special destination for campers and recreationists spending time on the western slope of Central Colorado. This project will serve as an example to demonstrate the overlapping missions of the NFF and Bronco Wild Fund by building a legacy of access, preservation, and stewardship from the ground up while connecting people to the outdoors responsibly.

Thank you to goodr, a company that specializes in $25 dollar Active Sunglasses for Anyone, for supporting NFF's work across Colorado's National Forests.

Cover photo by John Nadeau.


We hope you agree that getting outdoors with family, friends, or solo is a huge benefit of healthy and welcoming National Forests. Our work on campgrounds, trails, docks, overlooks, signs, and more ensures millions can enjoy the great outdoors each year. But it requires generosity from people like you to keep our work going. Your unrestricted gift allows us to direct funds to the greatest need. Please consider giving today. Thank you!

National Forest Foundation