Day trips provide relief from cabin feverFeb 28, 2018 08:58PM ● By Colleen Welch
Colleen Welch kisses a razorback sucker at the Ouray National Fish Hatchery.
If you’re like most adventurers on the Western Slope, you probably can’t wait to get out and explore. And if the upcoming weeks are anything like the winter the Grand Valley has experienced so far, this weather warrants a day trip or a short drive to a few western Colorado gems you probably know about but haven’t been to lately.
Museums galoreThe Grand Valley is home to the largest multi-disciplinary museum complex between Salt Lake City and Denver. Comprised of Museum of the West, Cross Orchards and Dinosaur Journey, the Museums of Western Colorado offer interactive, family oriented exhibits curated for people of all ages.
“The museums are a great place to bring visitors and learn the history of downtown and the Colorado National Monument while gaining a better appreciation for the region,” said David Bailey, the museums’ curator of history.
At the Museum of the West, 462 Ute Ave., you’ll find state-of-the-art exhibits, ranging from pre-European exhibits to a “flight” in a 1958 Cessna from Walker Field. Learn about Ute and Fremont rock art, and what life was like in the Wild West with life-size models of a one-room schoolhouse and a western saloon. Check out the museum’s latest exhibit on Alferd Packer, the Colorado cannibal and criminal in one of Colorado’s most famous murder cases.
Don’t be frightened by the robotic reconstructions of prehistoric reptiles greeting you as you browse the exhibits at Dinosaur Journey in Fruita. The museum is home to many exhibits displaying real dinosaur bones and fossils and a viewable paleontology laboratory, where you can see bones being prepared for display. Dinosaur Journey is also a great place to bring the grandkids, as the museum also hosts several kid-friendly activities.
Cross Orchards is a beautiful historic site that was once part of a 243-acre fruit ranch that includes a barn, packing shed and bunkhouse from the early 20th century. Railroad enthusiasts will enjoy the Uintah Railway exhibit and recreated train depot.
Drive an hour south to the Ute Indian Museum, 17253 Chipeta Road in Montrose, to learn about the history and culture of Colorado’s longest continuous residents. The museum is full of artifacts and exhibits connecting the past with contemporary Ute culture, including information on Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta. Visit the gift shop and walk along the path to the grave of Chipeta inside Chief Ouray Memorial Park.
Before you visit, check museum hours and admission prices at www.museumofwesternco.com. For the Museum of Western Colorado, call 242-0971. For the Ute Museum, call 249-3098.
Ouray National Fish Hatchery
The Ouray National Fish Hatchery raises endangered river fish that have been in the Colorado River for over three million years.
“These uniquely historic fish came close to extinction in the past 60 to 70 years, primarily due to non-native predatory fish, water depletion, large reservoirs and fish barriers,” Project Leader Dale Ryden said.
Tour the hatchery at 1149 24 Road and learn more about these unique fish as you pass the egg nursery and aquariums containing river fish such as the humpback chub, bonytail, razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow.
Each species has characteristics that have enabled it to thrive in a large river with wild rapids and high spring flows followed by low summer and winter water levels.
As part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, the hatchery works with public and private organizations to recover these endangered species, while promoting a healthy river system for the future.
For more information, call Ryden at 628-7200 or visit www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/fisheries/coloradoRiver.php.