Grand Mesa, Colorado
Grand Mesa , Colorado
In the summer of 2011 a friend and I took the exit off of I70 to Grand Mesa to see what it was. I hadn’t heard anything about it, and preferring to leave no stone unturned, we decided to check it out. What we encountered was the largest flat top mesa in the world, 11,000 feet in elevation at its highest point, and 40 miles long. Literally covered in bright green aspen, I wondered how it could be that Grand Mesa had escaped my attention for so long.
Knowing that the mesa would be a bonanza of fall color, we made a vow to return the soonest September possible. Everything came together in the fall of 2013, and seven of us booked rustic cabins at the historical Grand Mesa Lodge. The lodge sits above Island Lake, the largest of 300 lakes on the mesa. I’m not a fisher-person, but I imagine for those that are, Grand Mesa would be like being in a candy store. An old newspaper article tacked to the wall showed a fisherman holding a record 18 lb. bass.
I was more interested in moose. I had read that moose were reintroduced into the area in 2005, and hoped to photograph them, or at least one, while there. We learned a very large bull had been frequenting the area near the lodge, but had been shot (legally) by a hunter just the day before. I was very disappointed. Pretty sure the hunter wasn’t disappointed, but I was wishing I had the chance to photograph him before he became a trophy on someone’s wall.
Photographic opportunities are endless here; early morning fog rising on Island Lake and the full moon reflecting in the water at night, crystal clear reflections of aspen in any number of lakes and ponds, and sweeping vistas seen from 6,000 feet above the Grand Valley floor at sunset. Nature provided a bonus and we woke up early our second morning on the mesa thrilled to see 5 inches of snow had settled overnight.
Grand Mesa is a Scenic Byway accessed from the town of Mesa on the north, or Cedaredge on the south, and covers 500 square miles. The mesa can be seen stretched out in the distance from as far away as lookout points at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
If you go, don’t just drive through, stay awhile. There’s a lot to see and do any time of year including cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, hiking and fishing, boating and camping in the warmer months, and the fall color is spectacular!
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