It takes a concerted effort to reach the Gates of Lodore Campground in Dinosaur National Monument, but the payoff is a peaceful, historic setting with a river out your tent or RV door for evading summer's heat.
At the end of a long drive, sometimes on dirt-and-gravel roads, the campground stretches out along the banks of the Green River at the entrance to Gates of Lodore, a cleft the Green River somehow chewed through the mountains. It's said that Major John Wesley Powell named the chasm after a poem by Robert Southey titled "The Cataract of Lodore."
The history here revolves largely around Major Powell and his two trips down the Green, as well as subsequent trips by legendary rivermen Amos Burg and Dick Griffith. Too, the Browns Park area just to the north is said to have harbored Butch Cassidy, as well as other late 19th century outlaws.
Also standing here is a small log cabin that belonged to two men, Wade and Curtis, who supposedly used dynamite on some of the river's rapids to make them a little safer for paying guests.
The campground has just 17 sites, and with no reservation system in place, during the summer season you need to toss the dice and gauge your odds when heading to the campground. After all, it's more than 130 miles from the monument's Quarry Visitor Center, by road, and roughly 85 miles south of Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The payoff? Seclusion. Peacefulness under the cottonwoods. The murmuring Green River.
Some of the campground's regular visitors are boaters, as the campground provides river access to float trips down the Green River to Split Mountain.
For those not boating, the campground offers ready river access to cool off in or watch the kids build sand castles or skip rocks. There's also a nice, three-quarters-of-a-mile-long trail that rewards you with a great view into the Gates of Lodore.
As the Park Service notes, the 17 sites all have tables and firepits, there is running water from mid-April through mid-September, and vault toilets. While the sites, which go for $8 a night, are big enough to handle both tents and RVs, there are no hookups. And while the campground is open year-round, winter access can be tricky at times due to snow.
One thing you might want to know about camping at Gates of Lodore is that "tularemia," a naturally occurring disease that periodically strikes rabbits, hares, rodents, and other small animals, has been found in some of the rabbits here.
The disease is relatively rare among humans with less than 200 cases reported each year, but is a potentially serious illness if contracted. People can become infected with tularemia in several ways including being bitten by an infected tick, mosquito, deerfly or other insect; handling infected animal carcasses; breathing in the bacteria directly; or eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms of tularemia may include fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, cough, and muscle aches. Symptoms usually appear 3 to 5 days after exposure to the bacteria, but can take as long as 14 days. Consult your doctor at the first sign of illness, as the disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Make sure to let your doctor know that you have been to an area where an outbreak of tularemia has occurred.
To reach the campground, find your way to Maybell, Colorado, via U.S. 40, and then turn right onto Colorado 318. Follow 318 west for 46.2 miles and then turn left onto Moffat County Road 34N. Follow 34N for 1.7 miles and then turn right onto Moffat County Road 34. Follow 34 for 4.5 miles until you arrive at the ranger station and campground.
From Rock Springs, take Wyoming 430 south for 54 miles. When you cross over into Colorado, the route changes to Colorado 10, which you take for another 21 miles. Then turn right onto Colorado 318 and travel about 4 miles before turning left onto Moffat County Road 34 and proceed 4.5 miles until you reach the campground.