While driving around Ridgway, CO one day we stumbled upon small signs for this park. It turns out this is a 60-acre park that sits alongside the Uncompahgre River. It is dedicated to the memory and vision of actor Dennis Weaver.
Permanent Wildlife Preserve
This park is a permanent wildlife preserve. The park entrance is located off US-550 but can also be accessed from a series of trails from the town of Ridgway. This includes a nice bicycle trail along the river. This part of the park is called the Uncompahgre River Way.
If you enter the park from US-550 you will head down a road that leads you to a dirt parking lot. The parking lot has two porta-potties on one side. Before you get to the parking lot you will pass a small garden with a circular path through it on the right side.
Crossing The River
You will also cross a portion of the river before you get to the parking lot. Before you cross the bridge on your left side you will notice the trail that takes you to the riverway section of the park. You can walk back to that from the parking lot. More on that later.
Once in the parking lot if you look towards the roadway you will see a couple of things. The first thing you will notice is an awesome view of the San Juan mountains in the distance. The second thing you will notice is a bunch of sculptures directly in front of you. The most noticeable one being a huge eagle. As you walk across the small parking lot towards the sculptures you will first pass a small sculpture of an eagle.
The Medicine Wheel
Following the path down a little further, it will dump you into a large circle of stones. This circle is known as a “Medicine Wheel” and at the center of this circular area is where the large eagle is located sitting on a large pile of rocks. The eagle was created by a sculptor named Vic Payne from Wyoming and then donated to the Weaver family by Gerrye and Bill Widger of Ridgway, Colorado. The eagle weighs over 2800 pounds and has a wingspan of over 20 feet.
Just a quick note on medicine wheels. Medicine wheels were introduced in Native American spirituality where they are mostly referred to as “Sacred Hoops”. They are generally constructed of stone. For a complete description and explanation of “Medicine Wheels” check out Wikipedia.
Making the outline of the circle and along the paths leading up to it are Cairns. According to the dictionary, “cairns” are “a heap of stones set up as a landmark, monument, tombstone, etc.” These cairns have been placed by locals, school kids, and visitors from all over the world!!! These cairns contain prayers, tributes to loved ones, and challenges of patience and skills.
On one side of the circle, there was a musical instrument that looks a bit like a xylophone called “The Eaglet.” There is a sign that encourages you to tap out a little tune so of course, we tried. If anyone has been to this park and knows what its really called, let us know by leaving a comment in the section down below.
Heading back towards the parking lot a little there is a hiking trail that leads you along the river for a bit. It was a short in and out trail. There was also a way to access a grassy area near the river that had a picnic table and plenty of space for you to sit down, relax, and enjoy the river.
Back out to the parking lot you now have a couple of more choices. You can either head up some hiking trails that will give you some awesome views of the San Juan Mountains and the town of Ridgway or walk back towards the exit a bit and cross the bridge you drove over to access the bicycle trail.
If you opt for the trails and the views you will not be disappointed. The best piece of advice we can give to you for this option is to bring water and lots of it. There is very little tree cover and it can get quite warm. There is a bench or two along the way but that’s about it. We did not complete all the trail as it was super hot on our visit. We did climb high enough to enjoy the awesome views.
If you opted to walk back over the bridge and hit the bicycle trail, that’s ok too. Again, you will not be disappointed. This area actually has several picnic tables overlooking the river and an actual bathroom as opposed to a porta-potty. If you are a Geocacher you just may happen to find one near the restrooms…just saying.
This side of the park also had benches near the river. It is a great place to have a seat and just relax to the sounds of the river winding through. Since this side is the bicycle path it’s nice and wide. Following this trail, one way drops you right into the center of Ridgway. Following the bike path, the other way will take you toward the state park. Since we don’t have bicycles and it was so hot, we decided not to walk it and just enjoyed the river.
This is a free park. It has some very cool things to see and is a very relaxing place to visit. If you are an artist, writer, or can work remotely, this would be a great place to pull up a piece of the river and have at it. We had intended to do just that. We wanted to return and write some of our articles for the website there. Unfortunately, there was so much else to see for the short time we were in the area (don’t forget we were workamping 5 days a week) that we never did get back there.
If you are in the area and want to spend some quality time to relax either by yourself or with family, we highly recommend this park. You can’t beat the price!!!
Date Of Visit: July 2019
Entry Fee: $0
Pet Friendly: Yes/ Must Be On A Leash