Topography of the Uncompahgre Watershed

(from the Uncompahgre Watershed Plan 2013)

The topography of the Uncompahgre Watershed is highly varied, ranging from snow capped mountains to barren desert lands.  Major landforms include the Uncompahgre River Valley, the Uncompahgre Plateau to the west, the San Juan Mountains to the south, and the Gunnison uplift and Adobe badlands on the east.

Adobe badlands:Devil's Thumb among the Adobe Badlands, Delta County Colorado
The  adobe  badlands,  locally  referred  to  as  the  “dobies”

Devil’s Thumb among the Adobe Badlands, Delta County Colorado

are characterized by abrupt sloping hills of Mancos Shale dissected by rugged winding  canyons.  The  dobies extend  from  Delta  County,  through  Montrose  County,  and  into  Ouray  County  and  are extensively used by off‐road vehicles.

Uncompahgre Plateau:

Unaweep canyon in the Uncompahgre Plateau.

Unaweep canyon in the Uncompahgre Plateau.

The Uncompahgre Plateau is the remnant of an ancient highland. The ninety‐mile long Plateau flanks the west edge of the watershed, extending from the San Juan  Mountains  to  the  Colorado  River.  The  Plateau  is  incised  by many deep canyons separated by flat‐topped mesas.

Cimarron  Ridge:

The Cimarron Ridge forms the backdrop for many scenic photos outside of Ridgway, CO.


The  jagged  skyline  east  of  Ridgway  is  consists  of  volcanic  lava flows and ash layers. The rounded slopes below are weathered Mancos sculpted by  glacial moraines.

San Juan Mountains: 

Mount Sneffels Range in the fall, part of the San Juan Mountains.


The San Juan Mountains are a rugged, steep, scenic and highly
mineralized mountain range in the Rocky Mountain system.  Natural features of  the mountain range include spectacular breccia pipes, iron‐red stained red mountains, and U-shaped valleys, cirques, horns, and tarns carved by glaciers.

Uncompahgre  River  Valley:

Agriculture flourishes in the Uncompahgre Valley through the series of laterals, canals and ditches which bring water from the Gunnison River through the Gunnison Tunnel.


The Uncompahgre Valley is a comprised of multiple river
terraces  that  run  parallel  to  the  river.  These  terraces  make  up  a  broad,  highly  dissected valley with a gentle to moderate down‐valley slopes.
The Uncompahgre River begins in the high San Juan Mountains in Como Lake. The river flows north through Poughkeepsie Gulch and through the historic Red Mountain mining district where it is joined with Red Mountain Creek at the head of the Uncompahgre Gorge.  Other major tributaries join the Uncompahgre River as it flows north.  Canyon Creek joins Uncompahgre at Box canyon, in Ouray just below the Ouray Hydro Dam and Dallas Creek contributes and meets the River system at Ridgway Reservoir.

Downstream of Ridgway Reservoir, the Uncompahgre River is joined by Cow Creek.The Uncompahgre River flows through the Town of Colona towards the City of Montrose.  North of Montrose, the Uncompahgre gains flows from Cedar Creek and Spring Creek as it moves towards the Town of Olathe.  The Uncompahgre River gains flows from the Uncompahgre Plateau via Dry Creek approximately five miles above the confluence with the Gunnison River in the Town of Delta.  Flows north of Colona are highly regulated by a complex system of water diversions and canals.

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