Three million acres of State Trust Lands were originally put in trust at Colorado’s statehood in 1876 for the purpose of funding public schools. Though it is state-owned land, much of it has historically been closed to the public because it was being leased for purposes like agriculture, mining, oil and gas operations, and renewable energy. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has announced that it aims to open up one million acres of these parcels for public access by the fall of 2021 – and they are nearing their goal.
This means that in Chaffee County, public access will now be available to a previously inaccessible 370-acre parcel of State Trust Land located near Railroad Gulch in Brown’s Canyon. Regulation details are still being determined.
According to an email from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, “the Public Access Program provides limited, seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on State Trust Lands (STL). As a part of a multi-year effort to double the size of the Public Access Program, CPW added 58 additional STL properties with a total of approximately 199,000 acres to the program in May 2021.”
Only Railroad Gulch is in Chaffee County. But Park County has gained public access to three STLs, Saguache added two parcels, and Fremont one new public access parcel.
In a 2020 news release, Governor Jared Polis said “The Public Access Program is one of several ways hunters and anglers can get out in Colorado. Colorado spans 66.6 million acres and 23 million acres of public land is available for hunting.” Public land accounts for 77 percent of the land in Chaffee County.
In 2020, 600 acres of Browns Canyon State Trust Land near Ruby Mountain Campground was opened for annual public hunting access from September 1 to the end of February.
Follow this link to see a complete list of Colorado State Recreation Lands for information on state-owned public lands in the Arkansas Valley and across Colorado.
Public access to any state trust land or state wildlife area is restricted to those who hold a valid fishing or hunting license or a State Wildlife Area annual pass.