Rocky Mountain Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
From David Canyon Road looking back toward the Fort Hayes limestone bluff, you can see the diversity of the shortgrass prairie. New Mexico feathergrass forms the patches of silver on the spring landscape. Tree cholla and soapweed yucca are liberally scattered here, as well as a wide variety of forbs. Photo by Steven Olson, botanist, U.S. Forest Service.
The Fort Hayes limestone breaks down into sharp, angular fragments, forming a habitat that only very hardy plants can tolerate. Here we see longleaf phlox, Fendler's bladderpod, and sand dune wallflower. Photo by Steven Olson, botanist, U.S. Forest Service.
From the top of the Fort Hayes limestone bluffs along David Canyon Road, a copper globemallow overlooks the shortgrass prairie below. Photo by Steven Olson, botanist, U.S. Forest Service.
David Canyon Road
Forest: Comanche National Grassland
District: Timpas Unit
Description: The Comanche National Grassland offers ready access to wide areas of shortgrass prairie. The subtle nature of shortgrass prairie is exemplified along David Canyon Road (County Road 802) about 13 miles south of La Junta (Otero County), CO. This nearly eight mile long road parallels bluffs of Fort Hayes limestone. Flora associated with these limestone bluffs are distinctly different from the surrounding prairie. From late April through June, this area is alive with a wide variety of prairie blooms, along with many species of prairie birds.
Viewing Information: Blue grama and New Mexico feathergrass form the matrix that contains numerous wildflowers including purple prairie-clover, Carolina larkspur, dotted blazing star, pale agoseris, plains flax, and tree cholla. On the limestone bluffs are such flowers as longleaf phlox, Fendler’s bladderpod, sanddune wallflower, and copper globemallow.
Safety First: Weather is usually mild early in the season, but you should be prepared for thunderstorms and the possibility of lightning and hail. Bring extra clothing and rain gear with you. When it isn't raining, the air can also be remarkably dry in Colorado, making dehydration a potentially serious problem. So, drink plenty of water. Ultra violet radiation is much higher in Colorado than in most parts of the country. Avoid over-exposure to the sun, and always use sunscreen.
Directions: From U.S. 50 in La Junta, CO, turn south onto CO-109. Drive south about 13 miles and turn right (southwest) onto David Canyon Road (County Road 802). The next eight miles of this well-maintained dirt road cross the Comanche National Grassland and parallel the limestone bluffs. Although there are no developed trails along the road, access to the prairie is very easy. Two nearby Grassland areas with established trail systems are Vogel Canyon and Picket Wire Canyon. One cautionary note: David Canyon Road can become extremely slippery when wet.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Comanche National Grassland; Timpas Unit (719) 384-2181.
Closest Town: La Junta, Colorado.