A drive into Curecanti National Recreation Area around Blue Mesa Reservoir, at first glance, may appear barren, a vast expanse of sagebrush covered mesas. A closer look, however, will reveal a fascinating variety of life zones throughout the recreation area.
A SEMI-ARID SHRUBLAND
Some visitors to Curecanti often describe the area as a high mountain desert. With the annual precipitation averaging 12 inches per year, the most accurate classification is semi-arid shrubland. The dominant plant species throughout Curecanti is Big Sagebrush, often mixed with a greener shrub called Rabbitbrush. However, a slight difference in elevation, moisture, or soil structure can result in a noticeable difference in the vegetation.
RIPARIAN ZONES AND DRAINAGES
Driving into Curecanti from the east, the green pasture land is a result of human labor and irrigation, but the tall cottonwood trees and lush undergrowth of willow is the result of the Gunnison River. In this moisture rich riparian zone the Narrowleaf Cottonwood plays an important role. Its deep roots help stabilize the riverbank, and its lush growth of leaves and branches provide shade where many other plants can grow. Take a walk at Neversink to enjoy the Gunnison River and the life it supports.