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