Just about a mile north of the town of Ridgway is a ‘crown jewel’ of the region, the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park. People growing up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s will almost certainly remember Dennis Weaver who played the character ‘Chester’ in the wildly popular TV series of Gunsmoke. He later starred in the TV series ‘McCloud’ and was also featured in over 40 Hollywood movies. What most people don’t realize however is that he spent much of his years in and around the town of Ridgway, that he was a serious environmentalist, and that he had an enduring love and respect for the great outdoors.
Dennis dedicated about 175 acres along the Uncompahgre River for a wildlife preserve and about 80 acres has been included as a spectacular recreation area which is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. The iconic cast bronze Bald Eagle monument is the centerpiece of the park and has a giant wingspan of 20′ and is approximately 2800 lbs in weight.
The idyllic setting of this location is so beautiful and so peaceful that it has become a ‘must see’ experience for anyone visiting the area. The river in itself is so majestic as it weaves itself through the meadows and high-desert countryside but the park’s other great appeals are it’s beautiful foliage and the easy visibility of wildlife. Depending upon the time of year you visit you are likely to see a variety of waterfowl and wild birds. Ducks and geese can be seen floating with their families down the river or chugging their way just above the river as they ‘honk’ to acknowledge their presence. Eagles, hawks and herons can also be seen. Mammals like squirrels and rabbits and beaver can also be seen and deer are particularly prevalent in the winter season.
There is a paved walkway which parallels the river and provides easy access from town. This is a great spot for a wonderful walk, bike ride or a place to walk your dog. You can actually follow the sidewalk for about another 5 miles up to the Ridgway Reservoir and there are plans to connect this sidewalk all the way to Delta which is about 45 miles away.
For those wanting a bit more of a hiking experience there are miles of hiking trails through the sagebrush rolling hills adjacent to the park. These ‘single track’ trails are also popular with mountain bikers and a popular trail is one that takes you about 175 feet in elevation above the park to Boot Hill which is a perfect spot to view 360 degrees in a full circle at the beautiful terrain below. From this vantage point you have wonderful views of parts of the Sneffels Range and the town of Ridgway.
If you are looking for a serene spot for peace and quiet, a place to enjoy a picnic or a place that is rich in wildlife, varied plants and wildflowers in season, the Dennis Weaver Park is a place you should consider visiting.