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Flattops Wilderness Invitation

Video | Plant Life | Geology Info | Cutthroat Trout | Real "WILD" Wildlife
Area History

People have visited the Flattops for over 8,500 years. When Euro-Americans arrived in the 1860's most of the area was occupied by bands of Ute Indians. The Utes were forcibly removed from western Colorado after federal troops violated a territorial agreement and the subsequent "Meeker Massacre" of 1879 occurred.

In 1919, a Forest Service landscape architect named Arthur Carhart was sent to Trappers Lake to survey the area for the construction of several hundred summer homes. Realizing the rarity of such wildernesses in the American West, Carhart recommended no action be taken. Later, teaming up with conservation great Aldo Leopold, the preservation movement was underway. The Flattops played a key role in the establishment of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The Flattops Primitive Area was established on March 5, 1932. Although primitive area designation was not viewed as a general measure for wilderness protection, it was seen as an interim way to protect key lands. On December 12, 1975, the 235,230 acre Flattops Wilderness was established. It is the third largest Wilderness Area in Colorado.

Cradle of the Wilderness
Cradle of the Wilderness Areas
Trappers Lake
Trappers Lake on a still morning

The Colorado River cutthroat trout, once abundant in the wilderness, are now reduced in numbers and distribution. Anglers are encouraged to use a catch and release approach with this sensitive species. Also found are brook trout, rainbow trout and brown trout.