Bean Canyon scheduled for rehabilitation

Interpretive sign will highlight Rust Saw Mill

Bean Canyon will be undergoing work by the Forest Service to prevent erosion along the stream bed.


A popular camping area and ATV route in the Boggy Draw region of the San Juan National Forest will undergo rehabilitation this summer.

Forest Road 527 accesses the upper reaches of Bean Canyon from the Dolores- Norwood Road about four miles north of Dolores.

The area, also known as the Old Rust Saw Mill site, is used by ranchers, campers, ATV users, mountain bikers, and hikers, but has suffered from overuse, forest officials report.

"The Boggy-Glade travel decision maintains an open road through the Bean Canyon area and describes steps that would be taken to discourage off-road travel," said district ranger Derek Padilla. "Other actions will be restoring the meadow and stream channels."

Two miles up the canyon, unauthorized ATV crossings of an ephemeral tributary to Bean Canyon will be blocked with large boulders. Tree saplings will be planted, and boulders placed to block and help restore areas where off-road motorized travel has damaged the Bean Canyon stream.

"Motorized users will be redirected to a more stable crossing along a culvert," said forest hydrologist Shawna Jensen.

Jensen and a crew will also be repairing a several head-cuts in the Bean Canyon drainage caused by vehicle crossings. The impact is causing the stream to rapidly channelize unnaturally.

A head cut is a disturbance in a stream bed that causes an abrupt change in elevation. As water flows from high to low over the cut, it causes headward erosion along the surface, continuously deepening the channel.

"If you don't repair it, a gully will form that channelizes the water, creating more erosive energy that cuts it deeper," Jensen said. "Smoothing the head-cut with cobble stops the erosional effect, and creates a flatter stream bed that improves stream-side vegetation like willow to establish."

Also as part of the plan, an interpretive sign highlighting the history of the Old Rust Saw Mill will be installed along FS Road 527.

The mill was operated by A.A. Rust beginning in 1905 to process locally harvested ponderosa pine.

Milled lumber was shipped from the Rust Mill via the first narrow gauge logging railroad in the Montelores area. The rail line connected with the Rio Grande Southern Railroad line along the Dolores River using two switchbacks along a 500-foot cliff.

Mr. Rust was the first of the Dolores lumberman to build a separate railroad for his operations. A lucrative contract for finished lumber from the Sayre-Newton Lumber Co. of Denver enabled him to build the railroad spur.

"Judging from remnants of old buildings, and the amount of sawdust found there, the operation at Rust's Sawmill was quite extensive," said Bob York, a former forest archaeologist.

The operation was short-lived. In 1906, the sawmill shut down, and the tracks dismantled. The rails and ties were sold to the Montezuma Lumber Co., operating at Glencoe on Summit Ridge.

The public should expect to see heavy equipment and crews in the Bean Canyon area from July through mid-September.