Forest fires — destructive, yet renewing.
In 2002, the Missionary Ridge fire burned over 70,000 acres of forest in La Plata county, including a substantial area around Vallecito Lake. By 2005, much new growth could be seen in the area. However, another very unique and memorable sight can be seen in this area: a number of artistic carvings of damaged trees near the lake have been created to commemorate the huge number of firefighters, EMTs, and others who fought to save lives and homes. Sadly, one firefighter, Alan Wyatt, was killed by a falling tree. One of the carvings is dedicated to his memory. In addition, 56 homes were destroyed in the region, including about 10 homes by Vallecito Lake.
As you drive around the lake, look for the dozen or so carved trees amidst the shops or closer to the water. Maps and information booklets are available just below the Vallecito dam at the information center, as well as from many local businesses.
Most of the carvings were created by artist Chad Haspels. Donations are still welcome to help preserve the completed carvings, as well as to support the creation of additional ones.
After driving around to see the carvings, stay a while to enjoy fishing, boating, hiking and horseback riding during the warm months; cross-country skiing and snowmobiling on trails during the winter months.
For more information, contact:
Vallecito Lake Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 804
Bayfield, CO 81122
Drive to Bayfield on US 160.
Turn right (North) at the traffic signal onto La Plata County Road 501.
Drive 14 miles to the reservoir.
From Durango, you can also reach the lake by driving about 22 miles East on County Road 240 (turn east on Florida Road from Main Street). CR 240 will intersect CR 501 (see above) — turn left onto CR 501 to head to the reservoir.