Little Echo Lake, in Gilpin County, is one of the most spectacular high alpine lakes in Colorado and is now owned by the public along with the trail across it that provides new legal access to James Peak and the Continental Divide Trail.
United States Forest Service (USFS), Wilderness Land Trust (WLT) and Colorado Conservation Trust (CCT) officials have been coordinating for several years to acquire public ownership of the glacial lake and surrounding 318 acres which includes the lake, riparian areas along Mammoth Gulch, and a broad ridge that extends from James Peak framing the scenic valley.
The USFS was able to acquire the new property Aug. 30, 2012 with dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund which is supported by Colorado’s congressional delegation. The Little Echo Lake parcel can now be incorporated into the National Forest System lands that are managed by the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland Supervisor and staff.
Since 1992, The WLT has worked throughout the west to buy “inholdings” from willing sellers. It conveys ownership to federal land agencies to ensure the land will be permanently protected for the American public. Often small land acquisitions like this can decrease ownership fragmentation; such fragmentation can make managing public lands a challenge.
David Kirk, WLT’s senior lands specialist, negotiated their purchase in a way that made access to hundreds of miles of trails, lakes and peaks along the Continental Divide, including 13,000-foot James Peak available through the Little Echo Lake parcel.
Now that the USFS has acquired the parcel, the public can enjoy the lake and surrounding trails. “Hikers, backpackers, skiers, equestrians and anglers will be very pleased with this new public land and trail access,” Kirk said.
Funding from CCT was critical to the acquisition. “CCT and partners are pleased to be a part of a project that will protect this exceptional landscape forever,” said CCT Executive Director Brian Ross. “Thanks to WLT diligence and determination, the public can enjoy this spectacular area and appreciate a part of what makes Colorado so special.”
The CCT is a nonprofit organization working to conserve Colorado’s exceptional places.