Ian Billick, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, or 970-349-6669
Johnston, Crested Butte Land Trust,, or 970-349-1206

Once a private paradise, 160-acre basin is now public

Crested Butte
– Once owned by a private resort, the incredible waterfalls and beautiful alpine meadows of the North Pole Basin are now preserved and open to public access. 

Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) and the Crested Butte Land Trust (CBLT) acquired the 160-acre basin from the Crested Butte Mountain Resort for $1.3 million, an amount that is more than 30 percent below its appraised value. It is located between Aspen and Crested Butte.

 “We were very fortunate that the landowner was conservation-minded," said Bill Reimer, board member and president of CBLT, which now holds a conservation easement that ensures public access and management in perpetuity.

Top funding came from a $700,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant. The project was also funded by the Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Fund, 1% for Open Space, the Gates Family Foundation, and private donors. GOCO, created by voters in 1992, invests a portion of Colorado Lottery revenues in parks, trails, open spaces and wildlife habitat statewide.

The Crested Butte Land Trust will be responsible for building a new hiking-only single track trail to the North Pole Basin. Because of steep terrain, heavy timber, and seasonal access, design and construction of the trail is anticipated to take three years.   

Located next to the Schofield townsite, the North Pole Basin's protection continues more than 50 years of land conservation in the area. It is directly adjacent to the Mexican Cut Preserve, The Nature Conservancy’s first conservation project in Colorado. The North Pole Basin was

identified as a priority acquisition by the Trust for Public Land and the Crested Butte Land Trust as part of their joint High Elk Corridor Project, which protected more than 1,700 acres in the vicinity. The North Pole Basin also provides a bridge of protection between the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area and the Raggeds Wilderness Area. 

The North Pole Basin will enhance RMBL’s capacity to support one of the world’s most extensive and longest-running collections of field research projects at the Mexican Cut Preserve, which is also managed for science. Research on acid rain at the Mexican Cut was partly responsible for the inclusion of provisions to protect air in the western U.S. during the revision of the Clean Air Act in the early 1990s.

“With its combination of unique habitats and man-made high altitude ponds, our scientists have been chomping at the bit to work there.” said Ian Billick, RMBL Executive Director.

Acquisition of the North Pole Basin ensures public access to a trail running through the property and to the basin above.

Access is by foot traffic only. Due to the sensitivity of research, no dogs, bicycles or cars are allowed. Hike up the private access road leading west from Forest Service Road 317, just north of the West Maroon trail. There is limited parking along the county right of way.

For more information on North Pole Basin, contact the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory at 970.349.7420 or the Crested Butte Land Trust at 970.349.1206.