Owl Creek Pass and Silver Jack Reservoir

Montrose, CO

When we first arrived in Montrose, we stopped in at the visitor center to inquire about interesting things to do or see in the area.  While there we met the perfect person to talk enthusiastically and knowledgeably about his city.  One of the things he told us we must do was to take a long, circuitous route through the mountains southeast of town.  The trip, mostly on narrow, dusty roads, would take us up and over Owl Creek Pass and along the shore of Silver Jack Reservoir.

Heading south on US 550 toward Ridgway with the San Juan Mts. in the distance

We began the loop drive by heading south from Montrose on US 550 for 23 miles.  Just south of the day use area of Ridgway State Park we turned to the east at a sign designating the way to the pass and reservoir.

The dirt road was nicely maintained as we headed into the mountains, with typical Colorado mountain scenes all around us.

As we rose in elevation we began to see Aspens starting to turn colors.

Chimney Rock

After about 15 miles of dusty, winding roads we came to Owl Creek Pass.

Winding down the road on the north side of the pass we could see more leaves beginning to change in the high country of Colorado.

After descending for about eight miles we could see the Silver Jack Reservoir through the trees.  After all the twisting and turning we did going up and down the mountains we finally came to a stretch of flat, smooth road.  But we had to stop for a few minutes while someone in a pick-up gave assistance to two ladies in an SUV.

It seems that while maneuvering her car for that perfect fall picture (on the flat part of the road), she forgot to look in her mirror and backed right into a steep drainage ditch.  Fortunately, the truck was able to pull her out with little difficulty and no apparent damage to the vehicle.

We continued past the lake and pulled into the Silver Jack Campground and Picnic Area parking lot.  Right next to the bathrooms a trail leads down to an access road going to the dam.

The trail, which is paved for a short distance, leads to a handicapped accessible lookout with a nice view of the reservoir.  It then becomes dirt and heads downhill through a stand of Aspens.

View from the Lookout

Trail beyond Lookout

Once down on the road it is a short walk to the top of the Silver Jack Dam.  The earthen dam was constructed between 1966 and 1971 by the Bureau of Reclamation.  At a height of 173 feet, it is 1050 feet long at its crest.  It impounds the East Fork Cimarron River for irrigation storage.

Going over the wide top of the dam

As with all the reservoirs in the area, the water level is down in preparation for the winter.

Looking down at the Cimarron River below the dam

From the dam it was an 18 mile drive through Colorado farm land to US 50 near the little community of  Cimarron, then 20 miles back to Montrose.  This is a very scenic 84 mile loop that can be completed in any vehicle with a little clearance.

That completes our visit to Montrose.  We stayed nine days and found many things to do and see.  It is a good central location if you don’t want to move locations often, as places like Crested Butte, Gunnison, Ouray, and Telluride are within a day’s drive.  Next up for us is a return stay at nearby Ridgway State Park.  The leaves have really begun to change so we want to repeat a drive in the mountains we did two weeks ago.  More on that later . . .

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22 Responses to Owl Creek Pass and Silver Jack Reservoir

  1. Nancy says:

    Oh how I love the Aspens all dressed in their Autumn colors!

  2. Steve & Dianne Colibaba says:

    Sure is a beautiful area…thanks for the tour.
    Safe travels!

  3. Looks like you are getting some fabulous fall color, and I bet it’s going to get even better!

  4. Jim and Barb says:

    Wow, you have to wonder how she went off the road in a flat spot like that!

    • placestheygo says:

      Haha! That’s what we thought, Jim. But John heard the one woman saying that she was just backing up for a photo. The ditch was actually in a shadow. I guess you are suppose to look over your shoulder when backing. Who knew!

  5. geogypsy2u says:

    Looks like an amazing drive especially with the Fall colors.

  6. Jeff Pierce says:

    Bad things can happen trying to take a picture out the car window. Glad no damage, and the truck had the ability to pull her out. A beautiful drive in those fall colors.

  7. Laurel says:

    Those poor women in the ditch. I hope they got a good photo, LOL. 😳
    The colors of the landscape are so gorgeous, with the golden aspens and the turquoise lakes. Such a beautiful drive!

  8. Every picture featuring aspens looks like a painting. Those must be Fall’s most beautiful decoration! Can’t wait to see even more photos of them. As for the woman in the ditch, I am amazed her truck didn’t suffer any damage. She was really lucky – in a stupid way. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Laura! It has been a surreal trip these last few days. And there are more photos of the fall foliage coming as the leaves are peaking in color. I bet those ladies won’t be backing up while looking forward again!

  9. Wow. Every photo is just perfect with the colors and views. What a gorgeous place. We have a Montrose here that I thought of at first and it definitely doesn’t compare!!

  10. Sue says:

    I can completely understand how those women got into the spot they did! But for the grace of God go I! The difference is that I have an excellent driver positioning me for the perfect photo. He always looks carefully when I ask him to “move up just a hair, now back up one fence post, turn just a little toward me, move to the other side of the road, etc.”…..he’s a master! If I was alone – I’d be in the ditch!
    That drive looks like a perfect one – I’m jealous of you as I sit here listening to cold rain pelting on the roof.

    • placestheygo says:

      The leaves are so beautiful that it is easy to forget about your surroundings when wanting to take a photo. Good we both have those cautious drivers while we are photographing. I am sorry that your weather is turning cool much too fast.

  11. exploRVistas says:

    Love those fall Aspen trees. So beautiful!

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