Chaffee County All Lands Camping

Central Colorado is a recreator’s dream—the landscape provides opportunities to raft down the Arkansas River, travel along thousands of miles of trails, view many of Colorado’s fourteeners (14,000’ peaks), gaze at wildlife, and camp on the surrounding lands.

It’s a special place, and it attracts people from all over the world. But with increased recognition and visitation comes a higher demand for our public land agencies to manage these spaces in a way that protects the land, water, and visitor experience.

The National Forest Foundation has partnered with various organizations and land agencies to support the influx of recreators to central Colorado. One of these partnerships is with Envision Chaffee County. Envision Chaffee County developed the All Lands Camping Plan Accelerator, a collaborative model to manage dispersed camping impacts across city, county, private, and public lands. The NFF is supporting the efforts of Envision and our partners at the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, State Land Board, and Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area by coordinating and implementing the All Lands Camping plans.

Below are some recent collaborative projects:

Monarch Park Campground

The historic Monarch Park Campground, located just below the Continental Divide, west of Salida, Colorado, has provided a scenic and welcoming space for campers for many years. NFF is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service to renovate the campground to make it more accessible, replace dilapidated infrastructure, remove campsites from flood-prone areas, and provide trails to nearby fishing ponds. With these renovations, the campground will continue to provide a developed camping experience that many visitors and community members seek when searching for a place to stay near Salida.

Photo; Campsites located in flood-prone area at Monarch Park Campground.

Funding from the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is making these updates possible. The bill provides federal land management agencies with critical resources to address the deferred maintenance backlog on our public lands. The NFF supports GAOA programming by coordinating projects, issuing sub-awards to partners, and leveraging federal funds to raise additional funds for projects like Monarch Park Campground.

We are grateful to Chaffee Common Ground for supporting the Monarch Park Campground project.

Photo: Current campsite at Monarch Park Campground.

Chubb Park

Chubb Park, a trust land parcel in Chaffee County and owned by the State Land Board (SLB), was almost closed to campers. The area was open to camping during fall hunting seasons, but unfortunately, camping areas were never well marked, and information on camping closures was not adequately enforced. As a result, unauthorized, multi-season camping on the property became a serious problem.

Photo: Installation of a campsite post at Chubb Park

The SLB found campers to have an impact on the following: agricultural use and infrastructure; increased risk of wildfire; soil compaction and erosion; improper disposal of trash and human waste; and degradation of wildlife habitat.

Through a collaborative effort facilitated by Envision Chaffee County, the SLB decided to provide designated camping as an alternative camping experience.

The NFF partnered with the SLB to design and install 14 designated campsites with the help of the Southwest Conservation Corps, the agricultural lessee, BLM, and Chaffee County Rec Adopters. Now the area is fitted with fire rings, site posts, restrooms, a kiosk, boulders, and minimal fencing to contain sites.

Photo: Boulders being placed at Chubb Park. These boulders help define the designated campsites.

Dispersed Camping Management Plan on the Salida & Leadville Ranger Districts

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) seeks to manage vehicle-based dispersed camping on the Salida and Leadville Ranger Districts to provide camping opportunities while minimizing the effects of this activity on natural resources, non-public lands, and other recreators.

The impacts of unmanaged dispersed camping sites can negatively affect how visitors experience their public lands, cause a loss of vegetation, increase the risk of wildfire, and pose sanitation issues when human waste is left behind.

There are four ways that the Forest Service can manage camping: designated dispersed sites, developed campgrounds, traditional dispersed camping, and close areas to camping. As the Forest Service investigates its options, the NFF is providing mapping services and hopes to help with implementation once the USFS makes a decision.

Thank you to Great Outdoors Colorado for supporting the Envision Chaffee County All Lands Camping Plan Accelerator!


Jennifer Fenwick, Central Colorado Project Senior Associate, at [email protected]