Camp Hale - Eagle River Collaborative Restoration on the White River National Forest
Tucked into a high elevation watershed along the west slope of the Continental Divide in central Colorado are the headwaters of the Eagle River, a prominent tributary of the Upper Colorado River. These waters flow from each winter’s snowpack and they are the life blood of both human and ecological communities in western and eastern Colorado.
The area is a year-round recreation mecca for camping and hiking, skiing, hunting, wildlife watching, and off-road vehicles. The headwaters of the Eagle River also provide habitat for wildlife such as elk, bear, lynx, pine marten, marmot, pika, otter, trout, white-tailed ptarmigan, rosy finches, migratory songbirds and waterfowl. And underlying the iconic beauty of the landscape there is an important story in U.S. history.
In 1942 the Eagle River headwaters, and the surrounding 240,000 acres, became a winter and mountain warfare training camp during World War II, housing up to 17,000 troops. At an elevation of 9,200 feet, the military established Camp Hale here because the natural setting included a large, flat wetlands meadow, surrounded by steep slopes suitable for training in skiing, rock climbing, and winter survival skills.
Later, after World War II, Camp Hale was also used by the C.I.A. to secretly train Tibetan soldiers to enter China over high mountain passes during the Cold War. The camp was deactivated in 1964 and returned to the U.S. Forest Service for management.When the Army established Camp Hale, they:
- drained the large wetlands meadow surrounding the East and South Forks of the Eagle River;
- installed a sewage system;
- imported millions of cubic yards of fill; and
- channeled the meandering East and South Forks of the Eagle River headwaters into a linear three-mile ditch system that remains today.
Working with key stakeholders, the NFF developed an historic interpretation plan for creating a visitor experience focused on the importance and historic military value of Camp Hale, including the legacy of the 10th Mountain Division.
Implementation of this multi-year project is expected to begin in spring 2018.Efforts will include:
- hundreds of acres of wetland restoration,
- miles of stream channel development,
- recreation infrastructure enhancements, and
- construction of interpretive structures and experience zones that tell the story of Camp Hale.
This important work can only be accomplished with the support of local communities, stewardship partners, and generous donors.