SJCA Guide to

Hermosa Creek

Years of collaboration culminated in permanent protections for Hermosa Creek – a HUGE success. Now it’s time to implement them.

Hermosa Creek

Between Durango, the Dolores River, and Purgatory Ski Area lies the largest Roadless Area in Colorado. The Hermosa Creek watershed is an incredible wild backcountry that holds Outstanding Waters (the highest standard for surface water quality that the state anoints), native cutthroat trout, some of the largest conifers in Colorado, valuable big game habitat, and a diversity of trails for all user types.


In 2008 the regional community group, the River Protection Workgroup, was organized to address local watershed protection and water resource issues. The Hermosa Creek Workgroup was formed specifically to consider protections for the Hermosa Creek watershed. After six years of meetings, collaboration, and compromise among dozens of stakeholder groups, the Workgroup submitted the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act to Congress. President Obama signed the Act into law in December 2014 following supportive votes in the Senate and House. The substance of the bill was built from the ground up and fully embodies a true collaborative process. Compromises were made and everyone walked away confident that Hermosa Creek and its uses and wonders will be preserved for lifetimes to come. 

Thank You

This legislation passing is a HUGE accomplishment for hundreds of local citizens who participated in the process, from the Hermosa Workgroup, to designing the legislation, to endorsing the Act, to lobbying for support, and even traveling to Washington to promote the Act.

Moving Forward

With the legislation complete, the San Juan National Forest is now drafting a management plan to implement the Act. Thanks to all who submitted comments on the Initial Draft of the plan! We’ll let you know when the next round of public input is requested.

The purpose of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act is to “conserve and protect for the benefit of present and future generations the watershed, geological, cultural, natural, scientific, recreational, wildlife, riparian, historical, educational, and scenic resources of the Hermosa Creek watershed.” Check out what it includes:

Wilderness & Roadless

The Act designated the Hermosa Creek Wilderness, a 37,400 acres wilderness between the Animas River and the Dolores River divide. Congress designates Wilderness Areas sparingly these days, so this was a huge win for Colorado. Adjacent to the Wilderness is the Hermosa Creek Special Management Area (SMA), a new protected area of over 70,600-acres which includes a legislatively-protected Roadless Area of 43,200-acres.


Hermosa Creek is rich with diverse recreation opportunities. Within the Wilderness Area hikers and horseback riders can enjoy 30 miles of remote trails. Anglers and hunters can explore thousands of acres of wild backcountry for their sport. Many more trail miles extend throughout the Special Management Area and are open (where designated) to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes, motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles.

Mineral Withdrawals

Additionally, the Act protects 13,086-acres outside the Hermosa Creek watershed – Perin’s Peak, Animas Mountain, Horse Gulch, and Lake Nighthorse – from oil, gas, coal, uranium, hardrock, and other mineral extraction.

Current Status

Now that the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act bill is law the San Juan National Forest (SJNF) must design a management plan to implement it. Right now the SJNF is drafting a plan. Stay tuned – we’ll let you know when public input is requested.

Take Action!

number41 (2)Become a member

Sign up to be a member, you’ll become an active and essential contributor to the cause.

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Sign up for our email list here. You’ll receive the most recent Hermosa Creek news and updates on new ways you can help.

Learn More

We are involved in similar work for other rivers in the region. Check out our Rivers page for more information.

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