The Norwood-Burn Canyon Trails were the vision of a local resident who worked closely with the Norwood Park and Recreation District to draft a trail proposal which they submitted to the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office in 2010. The BLM determined that a travel management plan environmental assessment was needed in order to address all resource concerns. Through this process, all routes in this particular planning area (approx. 9800 acres) will be designated and will provide recreational opportunities for both non-motorized and motorized use. Watch the news articles section for updates on the project.


Cultural surveys were completed in the area from 2012-2014. This area is on two mesas that overlook Naturita Canyon, Burn Canyon, Mud Springs Draw and McKee Draw.

The prehistoric people who lived here exploited three environmental zones and the diverse biotopes throughout the surrounding area. These included the riparian zone in canyons along the river, the sagebrush grassland and pinyon-juniper of the hills and ridges, and the dense shrub communities situated on the north-trending slopes of the higher elevations. These zones may have provided a substantial supply of seasonal and year-round resources.

The prehistoric cultural remains cover the broad spectrum from the Paleo-Indian era through the Historic Ute occupation.  The dates for these eras are generally: Paleo-Indian, 11,450 to 6450 B.C; the Archaic, 7300 to 400 BC; the Formative 400 B.C. to A.D. 1300; and the Proto-Historic, A.D. 1100 A.D.to 1650. The Historic Era, begins around A.D. 1650 to present. The cultural material in this area are in the form of tools and lithic scatter and date from all eras of occupation.

During the Formative Era, it appears that Basketmaker and Ancestral Pueblo people came to this area and hunted seasonally.  They may have come from small pit-house and pueblo settlements occurring on Hamilton Mesa, in Paradox Valley, and along the Dolores River drainages which include Roc Creek, Tabaguache Creek and Cottonwood Creek.  Material evidence within the project area shows food processing and short-term camping.

The Proto-historic era around A.D. 1100 includes the Numic (Ute and Paiute) entrance in to western Colorado.  The Formative and Proto-historic cultural affiliations, point to San Juan Basketmaker and Pueblo II-III populations of the 4 Corners and southwest area, and the Paiute and Ute hunter/gatherers of the Great Basin.

The canyons and draws mentioned above converge and create a catchment area that corrals game animals and funnels their movements up out of the canyons onto the mesas in concentration at certain points.  It is here where game procurement and processing campsites occur. These “hunting camps” are found along the rims at canyon access points and were utilized by all cultures throughout time.

– Carol Patterson,PhD. RPA, Urraca Archaeological Services


The first European to enter the San Miguel Resource area was Juan Maria de Rivera in 1765 on a trading and trapping expedition out of Santa Fe. He followed the Dolores River and travelled along the Uncompahge Plateau to the Gunnison River.  Then in 1776 the Dominguez Escalante expedition followed a similar route to the Gunnison River.  They found Ute Indians inhabiting the central and western portions of Colorado speaking dialects of the Shoshonean subfamily of the Uto-Aztecan language.  The Tabaguache Utes were centered around the San Juan and San Miguel river areas.

American trappers and traders followed in the early 1800’s. In 1876 gold was discovered that lead to the establishment of mining towns along the San Miguel River and into the high mountains. Norwood was started in 1885 by cattlemen and Sawpit in 1895 to produce timber for the miners.  In 1890 Otto Mears brought the Rio Grand Southern narrow gauge railroad into the area from Ridgway to Placerville. The Colorado Cooperative Company was formed in 1894 and founded Nucla in 1905 as well as the now abandoned towns of Cottonwood and Pinyon.  The discovery and demand for uranium and vanadium created more towns and people in the 1930s and 40s.

The post war ski industry brought in more development for recreation in the deserted mining towns, and settlement in the Norwood area with ranching, timber milling and building construction jobs.

– Carol Patterson,PhD. RPA, Urraca Archaeological Services