Featured Location: Lazy UO and Everett Jackson Ranches
There are thirteen miles of Upper Carrizo Canyon through which a slim but permanent stream runs between 300-foot cliffs, past small but dense riparian tangles, below overhangs where Cliff (and maybe Cave?) Swallows nest in huge colonies, past historic pictographs, underneath the clifftops where a herd of Bighorn Sheep resides. Resident Golden Eagles soar over the valley, where birders can spend the night in a primitive dugout hut in much the same fashion as their pioneer ancestors, waking to wind and birdsong and to no other noise.
A few miles north, there is a trailer at the foot of the highest mesa in Baca County, alongside a couple of RV hookups, whose yard is prowled by roadrunners and Rock Wrens. People who like to sleep in beds, take note: these are by far the closest accommodations to one of Colorado's finest birding spots, the legendary Cottonwood Canyon. (The nearest hotels are in Springfield, more than an hour away!) These lodgings are just five minutes from the canyon by car, and along the road in between you'll find a prairie dog town which in spring and summer is full of squabbling Burrowing Owls.
From there, it's just another twenty miles or so northwest to an enormous intermittent playa lake, a big wet magnet for waterbird migrants, where concentrations of ducks and shorebirds can drop a birder's jaw, and where the landowner has twice reported Whooping Cranes in the last couple spring migrations. When bird numbers are high, Peregrine Falcons terrorize the flocks, and you might see ten species of shorebird. In the surrounding hills, hidden deep in the pinyon-juniper woods, are some of the best-preserved dinosaur tracks in Southeast Colorado, not to mention some seeps and water tanks that often attract thirsty birds. The grasslands on this property have breeding Long-billed Curlew, Mountain Plover, Grasshopper, Lark and Cassin's Sparrows.
Believe it or not, all three of these amazing sites are part of a package deal available to nature enthusiasts. All of them are owned or co-owned by Everett and Flo Jackson, whose homestead (the Everett Jackson ranch) includes the playa lake, and whose other property (the Lazy UO Ranch, co-owned by Jesse and Sharri Smith) encompasses the canyon and the mesa. For $10 per person per day, you can visit all these places; for $15 per night, you can hook up your RV; for $25 per person per night, you can spend the night in the trailer; and for $125 per group per day, you can get the guided tour of both properties. The guided tour is the best way to see the pictographs and the Bighorn Sheep (which are not guaranteed) and the only way to see the dinosaur tracks. It's also the best way to really explore Carrizo Canyon, and you may be able to take the tour of Jesse Smith's world-class leatherworking shop, where he specializes in handmade custom saddles. The Jacksons are wonderfully friendly folks who will, for an extra charge, provide board as well as room, for those birders who do not want to bring their own food. (Food, as well as gas, are available in Kim, but only during business hours.)
To inquire about access to the Lazy UO and the Everett Jackson Ranch and to get directions, please call Flo and Everett Jackson at 719-643-5435 a minimum of 48 hours in advance of your potential visit. The fee for access is $10 per person per day. Please remember that this is a working ranch as well as a private residence, and there may be times when the landowner cannot accommodate visits. While you are on the ranch, remember to stay on roads, leave gates as you find them (whether open or closed), and refrain from taking anything off the ranch or leaving trash behind.
View the information page about Lazy UO and the Everett Jackson Ranch.