Into the Unknown

  Juan Rivera's Exploration into Southwest                             Colorado, 1765.

Juan Maria Rivera in 1765 was the first documented European to enter what is now the State of Colorado. He was commissioned by Governor Tomas Velez Cachupin of New Mexico to look for reported silver deposits far to the north of the settled areas of the colony of New Mexico. Rivera made two trips north that year. The first started in July and went as far as La Plata Canyon west of today's Durango, Colorado. The second began in August and reached the banks of the Gunnison River in west central Colorado near the current town of Delta. A small party traveled to the summit of the Grand Mesa. A couple of notes on how I present this information. I  am writing this primarily for Motorcyclists and Mountain Bikers. Other modes of transportation can be used, Horseback, as I did riding the Old Spanish Trail, Walking, and or vehicles.  When I use the words Rivera or Juan Maria Rivera, or He, I am usually referring to the entire expedition of 34 members. Properly, this book should be used with Steven G Baker's monumental 30-year project of deciphering Rivera's cryptic notes, exploring the trail and writing his book; Juan Rivera's Colorado, 1765. Available on Amazon. Because of the large scale on the maps I have I recommend using the Delorme Atlas's for New Mexico and Colorado, they will provide better detail for your route finding. The maps I have show the riding route in red, and Rivera's route in Green.

     Abiquiu New Mexico.

     Rivera began both expeditions from the plaza in front of St Thomas the Apostle church in Abiquiu. Which today probably looks very similar to the way it looked in 1765, it is still unpaved with adobe buildings ringing it.

     To begin ride north on Road 187 out of the plaza to Highway 84, turn left onto 187, ride to Road 162 just before the bridge over the Chama River and turn left onto it. Rivera traveled along the Chama River to his first night's camp at Canones Creek just west of where Abiquiu dam is today. You will travel along this very pleasant secondary road as it follows the south bank of the Chama River to ascend the face of Abiquiu Dam to Highway 96 which crosses the top of the dam.

     Turn Left onto Highway 84 ride across the dam. Just beyond the dam, there is a dirt track on the right descending to the water. Canones Creek enters Abiquiu Reservoir from the left. Rivera's first camp was near the junction of the creek and the Chama River, now underwater. His route from this camp crossed the Chama River and went north closely approximating Highway 84.

Retrace your route across the dam continuing to Highway 84, turn Left onto it. Ride north on 84. Just north of the Ghost Ranch Visitor's Center on your right, across Canjilon Creek is the site of Rivera's second camp. 

     The gorge narrows where Canjilon Creek comes in from the right. Just beyond this point, Navajo Canyon lies on your left. Rivera ascended this canyon to the prairie beyond. Because of private land issues, the canyon cannot be entered.

You can however continue north to County Road 145 a left turn here will take you to the Berryman Ranch. As you ride west look to your left, you will the land Rivera rode through. The gate is as far as you can ride as the route beyond the gate is private.

hile I was stopped at the gate a came out petite gray haired very nice lady came out from the adjacent Berryman ranch house. She wondered what I was up to and wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to ride on their ranchland. We talked about Riveria's route, she did not know about Rivera but knew about the Old Spanish Trail which used the same route. She said you could go to the right on a dirt road around their land on national forest land for a long way and re-join the Spanish Trail near Alire. Then her husband rode up on an ATV and quite sternly told me that if I frightened any cows I might be shot. I assured him I had no interest in frightening cows.

    

     You will need to retrace your route to Highway 84. At Highway 84 turn Left and head north 5 Miles to County Road 303, turn Left on CR 303, travel 6 Miles to the spot on the map named Alire, the road makes a right angle turn to the left, in .3 Miles  the road makes a right angle turn to the right. At this point you are back on Rivera’s route.

[Mile 31]  Continue 1.7 miles to Cebolla Creek, Rivera’s 3rd camp was on this creek.

     Continue on CR 303. Watch for a ravine on your left with low hills on your right. You can be sure you are on Rivera's route here as the expedition had to pass between the ravine and the hills.  Continue north toward the Rio Nutria. On your left at the crest of a low ridge, there is an abandoned ranch house. Just beyond that half a mile or so is a pioneer grave surrounded by a falling down iron fence it is worth stopping at for a moment's contemplation of the struggles the pioneers went through.  Use caution at the Rio Nutria crossing, when we rode it across it on horseback in September it was just a trickle hardly worth calling stream. When I came to it in April it was a rushing torrent. The bottom is mud, while one can get a bicycle across, if you have a moto, use extreme caution. Getting stuck here would be a serious problem. In April I turned around and retraced my route back to the highway, 

   

  If you must retrace your route (I hate to backtrack, but I really hate getting deep into a muddy stream crossing) Highway 84 turn Left, ride north to Tierra Amarilla. Just beyond the community turn Left onto County Road 112. Ride west on this road 11 Miles to an unmarked dirt road on your Left. Turn down this road to the Rio Nutria crossing.

  

    If you were able to cross Rio Nutria continue to CR 112 and turn left onto it. Ride to the dam on the Chama River. There is a State Park here with camping.

    Ride across the dam 1.5 Miles to County Road 322  Ride north about 9.5 miles on this dirt road with summer cabins along it. Ride slow as not to kick up unwelcome dust to the intersection with  CR 322 and #22 Yep, weird but, that is what the map says. A left turn here goes into the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, When I was there in April 2020 there were warning signs not to use the road, as it was Apache land. It is important to be respectful of their lands. Here we depart from  Rivera Route due to the Reservation.

Uuan Maria Rivera established the ford across the Chama River used by Dominguez and Escalante 11 years later, many Spanish Slavers of unknown travels and  names (there are Spanish traces and artifacts from 1795 on in Central Utah. Rivera crossed the Chama  upstream from the dam, the ford which was used for many years is now under water. Rivera traveled north on the west side of the lake to Horse lake and north from there..

Due to the closed route through Horse Lake to what is now Highway 64, You will need to ride  CR 32 to CR 95 to Route 84 Then north to Chama turning left onto Highway 64 ride to the community of Lumberton. On the far side of the community Arriba county Road 357 is on your right, take this heading north toward Edith the road turns to gravel in a mile. Just before Edith you ride into Colorado. Edith is a ranch, there is no town or services. The road number changes to CR 359. In 12 miles you will come to CR 549 turn left here and follow this road to CR 500, turn to the right ride to the bridge over the San Juan River.  Due to private and tribal lands you cannot follow Rivera's route north and west from  the bridge over the San Juan River. Rivera crossed just downstream from the bridge and ascended Canyon on the left on the north side of the River. You must use an alternate route. Retrace your route south on CR 500 also known as Trujillo road. Stay on it along the river to Pagosa Junction. This is an historic site on Ute tribal land, be respectful. There are railroad artifacts here including old Denver and Rio Grande railroad cars, an old bridge, and up on the hill a mission church. 

     After you have toured Pagosa Junction return to the top of the hill and take CR 700 north along Cat Creek. Near the spot on the map called Kearns, the Rivera route crosses your path following a broad valley. Due to private property you will need to ride to highway 160, This all a very scenic ride past farms and ranches. 

     Turn Left onto Highway 160 and ride to Highway 151. Turn Left onto onto 15, ride south to Pargin Reservoir. Rivera came down the valley to the east, across what is now the reservoir, rode to the canyon Route 160 ascends. His route followed 160 west to Yellow Jacket Pass. Rivera did not mention the prominent Chimney Rock Butte. Today this is a National Monument however without a campground; https://www.chimneyrockco.org .

    Right to Pagosa Junction Turn right onto Archuleta County Road 700 set your mileage at zero

    Right to Pagosa Junction Turn right onto Archuleta County Road 700 set your mileage at zero

    Right to Pagosa Junction Turn right onto Archuleta County Road 700 set your mileage at zero

    Riviera crossed what is now Capote reservoir crossed Highway 151 in this swell up to Highway 160 and followed it West

    Riviera crossed what is now Capote reservoir crossed Highway 151 in this swell up to Highway 160 and followed it West

    Riviera crossed what is now Capote reservoir crossed Highway 151 in this swell up to Highway 160 and followed it West

    Riviera crossed what is now Capote reservoir crossed Highway 151 in this swell up to Highway 160 and followed it West

    Dolores has a good grocery store Dolores Food market, gas several restaurants there’s a good camp area 5 miles north of town on the road to Norwood little been canyon go up at the half a mile or so and there are a number of campsites no water no facilities

    Dolores has a good grocery store Dolores Food market, gas several restaurants there’s a good camp area 5 miles north of town on the road to Norwood little been canyon go up at the half a mile or so and there are a number of campsites no water no facilities

    Right 7.5 miles west to Montezuma County Road 43 turn right onto yet

    Right 7.5 miles west to Montezuma County Road 43 turn right onto yet

    From the road if it is a very clear Day you can see Shiprock far to the south, you can see the north end of sleeping Ute Mountain just the right Southwest Library Henry Mountains the last discovered mountain range in the United States

    From the road if it is a very clear Day you can see Shiprock far to the south, you can see the north end of sleeping Ute Mountain just the right Southwest Library Henry Mountains the last discovered mountain range in the United States

    Revere I traveled the edge of Deloris Canyon on this plane the eastern end of the green sage plane. There’s a private property and lack of roads we have to zigzag our way through on the roads that exist. Don’t use these roads in instead of the weather

    Revere I traveled the edge of Deloris Canyon on this plane the eastern end of the green sage plane. There’s a private property and lack of roads we have to zigzag our way through on the roads that exist. Don’t use these roads in instead of the weather

    Road C heading west got to route 21 turn right on 21 this is an approved gravel road heading north

    Road C heading west got to route 21 turn right on 21 this is an approved gravel road heading north

    Correction on my last text it is the blue mountain or a Baja mountain. Just beyond Monticello. Looking to the left with the northwest you can see the top of the list so

    Correction on my last text it is the blue mountain or a Baja mountain. Just beyond Monticello. Looking to the left with the northwest you can see the top of the list so

    From this north-south road running Road 21 you look to the west to the blue Mountains all of that bass expanse is the great stage playing the old Spanish Trail main route comes up out of South Canyon to the great stage playing fairly close to the blue Mountains and then traverses the long lands that you can see in the distance to the area of Dolores

    From this north-south road running Road 21 you look to the west to the blue Mountains all of that bass expanse is the great stage playing the old Spanish Trail main route comes up out of South Canyon to the great stage playing fairly close to the blue Mountains and then traverses the long lands that you can see in the distance to the area of Dolores

    At rode 20 turn right and it dead ends and if you

    At rode 20 turn right and it dead ends and if you

    Take Route 16 north to the Dolores River access Bradfield Ridge recreation site Road 16 turn right there’s a new River

    Take Route 16 north to the Dolores River access Bradfield Ridge recreation site Road 16 turn right there’s a new River

    I am from River less than a half mile watch for 504 road on your left take that Riviera route according to Steve and Baker goes up the canyon that this road crossings and climbs up out of

    Pat Bradfield rich there is an un Improved camp area underneath the Cotton woodsAlong side the Dolores river very pleasant spot

    Pat Bradfield rich there is an un Improved camp area underneath the Cotton woodsAlong side the Dolores river very pleasant spot

 

Richard Waller:

    From Joe Davis Hill is a good place for a dual sport to stop. From Hearon it requires a serious expert. I came up from Highway 141, once I got into the canyon area I was in low range four-wheel-drive for most of it.

    From Joe Davis Hill is a good place for a dual sport to stop. From Hearon it requires a serious expert. I came up from Highway 141, once I got into the canyon area I was in low range four-wheel-drive for most of it.

    It is a great hike or a horse ride or jeep route the views are incredible. The Dolores River Canyon here is stunning, the river lies about 2000 feet below, framed with red sandstone cliffs and Pinyon forest

    It is a great hike or a horse ride or jeep route the views are incredible. The Dolores River Canyon here is stunning, the river lies about 2000 feet below, framed with red sandstone cliffs and Pinyon forest

    Caveat do not take heavy motorcycles beyond the forest boundary. I do not recommend a full-size pick up. A GMC Canyon or Toyota Tacoma will work. Some parts will be low range four-wheel-drive to Highway 141.

    Caveat do not take heavy motorcycles beyond the forest boundary. I do not recommend a full-size pick up. A GMC Canyon or Toyota Tacoma will work. Some parts will be low range four-wheel-drive to Highway 141.

    When you reach Highway 141 turn right proceed 10 1/2 miles to the left turn on CR 25. The turn comes up quickly there isn’t much warning be prepared for it. Turn left then turn right immediately past the tanks follow that to Beard cornerCRU 29W turn left onto it

    When you reach Highway 141 turn right proceed 10 1/2 miles to the left turn on CR 25. The turn comes up quickly there isn’t much warning be prepared for it. Turn left then turn right immediately past the tanks follow that to Beard cornerCRU 29W turn left onto it

    Riviera Road up peas broad valleys this one is gypsum Valley he headed north in this Vasquez

    Riviera Road up peas broad valleys this one is gypsum Valley he headed north in this Vasquez

    There is a YU 29W goes left we take 18 Y to the right towards State Highway 90 in Bull Canyon

    There is a YU 29W goes left we take 18 Y to the right towards State Highway 90 in Bull Canyon

    Past where I turned around on the motorcycle and continued on the narrow cheap track to the forest boundary. I do not advise taking a laden adventure bike beyond this point trust me when I say it will require a serious expert to successfully negotiate the next 10 miles. If you under estimate the route or over estimate your ability you are a very long way from anyone who can help you.

    I continued on descending trying to remain on the Ridgetop which would've been Riviera's route I did take another dead end Requiring me to pull some fallen trees out of the way with the truck, just scratch through the oak with tickets, to wind my way around the boulders I couldn't move out of the way. I did reach a boulder nest which again required me to back up to a point where I could turn around and retrace my route I hate backtracking

    Back onto the marginal Jeep track ID send it yet and eventually at 2 30 I arrived at the junction that I had been at at 8:15 that morning. But I successfully mapped the entire route across disappointment Mesa and down to Highway 141. Descend into Highway 141 I turned to the right passed over gypsum Summit and took the R 25 Road

    Which took me to the 6 Shooter Rd. I follow that for many miles through the vast gypsum Valley Road eventually became D 19 Road I followed it up over a narrow summit and the vast panorama of paradox Valley opened up before me. Descending that I half-mile I came to the Davis Mesa Road turn sharply left onto it and followed it through the ground and beautiful landscape overgrazed by cattleTo camp where I sit in my chair with a beer dictating the day

    Which took me to the 6 Shooter Rd. I follow that for many miles through the vast gypsum Valley Road eventually became D 19 Road I followed it up over a narrow summit and the vast panorama of paradox Valley opened up before me. Descending that I half-mile I came to the Davis Mesa Road turn sharply left onto it and followed it through the ground and beautiful landscape overgrazed by cattleTo camp where I sit in my chair with a beer dictating the day

    Back onto the marginal Jeep track ID send it yet and eventually at 2 30 I arrived at the junction that I had been at at 8:15 that morning. But I successfully mapped the entire route across disappointment Mesa and down to Highway 141. Descend into Highway 141 I turned to the right passed over gypsum Summit and took the R 25 Road

    I continued on descending trying to remain on the Ridgetop which would've been Riviera's route I did take another dead end Requiring me to pull some fallen trees out of the way with the truck, just scratch through the oak with tickets, to wind my way around the boulders I couldn't move out of the way. I did reach a boulder nest which again required me to back up to a point where I could turn around and retrace my route I hate backtracking

    Past where I turned around on the motorcycle and continued on the narrow cheap track to the forest boundary. I do not advise taking a laden adventure bike beyond this point trust me when I say it will require a serious expert to successfully negotiate the next 10 miles. If you under estimate the route or over estimate your ability you are a very long way from anyone who can help you.

    Detour back to pavement Highway 141 through slickrock Egnor into Dovecreek Colorado. I fueled in Dovecreek and drove to the Bradfield bridge where I had been two weeks before and retraced my route up onto the national forest and drove north

    Detour back to pavement Highway 141 through slickrock Egnor into Dovecreek Colorado. I fueled in Dovecreek and drove to the Bradfield bridge where I had been two weeks before and retraced my route up onto the national forest and drove north

    Being unable to turn around and having to back up the jeep trail with precipitous drop offs is unpleasant. So I turned around and decided I would tackle this route issue from the top of disappointment Mesa starting where I turned my motorcycle around two weeks before. That entailed hey 60 miles

    Being unable to turn around and having to back up the jeep trail with precipitous drop offs is unpleasant. So I turned around and decided I would tackle this route issue from the top of disappointment Mesa starting where I turned my motorcycle around two weeks before. That entailed hey 60 miles

    Did it though. Then picked another route, there must've been uranium mining exploration here bad trails everywhere, I ascended another until it to appeared to be a problem. I don't mind if the route is difficult if I know I can get through, that unknown

    Did it though. Then picked another route, there must've been uranium mining exploration here bad trails everywhere, I ascended another until it to appeared to be a problem. I don't mind if the route is difficult if I know I can get through, that unknown

    I carefully fact tilt in my side mirrors down to see my tracks. I kept my tires in my previous tire tracks. Turned off the radio did some breathing exercises concentrated very carefully. I backed down a half mileOf what really was a reasonable ATV track that really sucked in a pick up truck

    I carefully fact tilt in my side mirrors down to see my tracks. I kept my tires in my previous tire tracks. Turned off the radio did some breathing exercises concentrated very carefully. I backed down a half mileOf what really was a reasonable ATV track that really sucked in a pick up truck

    Today was epic, I left camp at 8 AM taking the Jeep Road south the route according to the map was what appeared to be a very difficult jeep trail end it was. Nacht into the cliff I went out itHey half mile and decided discretion was the better part of valor, the problem was there was no turn around. 2000 feet down to the Dolores River. Hey screw up was not advisable

    Today was epic, I left camp at 8 AM taking the Jeep Road south the route according to the map was what appeared to be a very difficult jeep trail end it was. Nacht into the cliff I went out itHey half mile and decided discretion was the better part of valor, the problem was there was no turn around. 2000 feet down to the Dolores River. Hey screw up was not advisable

    Great sandstone formations very quiet and peaceful sheltered from the wind

    Great sandstone formations very quiet and peaceful sheltered from the wind

    The jeep Road to Davis Mesa ends at a lovely little campsite nestled against sandstone formations. The 4 x 4 Trail north to catch them up trail branches off the jeep Road just before camp. Davis Mesa is lovely overgrazed by cows but

    The jeep Road to Davis Mesa ends at a lovely little campsite nestled against sandstone formations. The 4 x 4 Trail north to catch them up trail branches off the jeep Road just before camp. Davis Mesa is lovely overgrazed by cows but

    Rivera traveled north through gypsum Valley then climbed onto Davis Mesa headed north on yet until it ended. Beautiful red rock formations. He then descended the very steep cliff over 1000 feet to the Dolores River over what became known as the Ketchump Trail, A very steep trail down the edge of Davis Mesa

    Rivera traveled north through gypsum Valley then climbed onto Davis Mesa headed north on yet until it ended. Beautiful red rock formations. He then descended the very steep cliff over 1000 feet to the Dolores River over what became known as the Ketchump Trail, A very steep trail down the edge of Davis Mesa

    Ketchump trail comes out on a short spur Road just south of the Dolores River bridge next to Highway 90 just before the cattleguard there's a Barbwire fence that you have to climb over. Looking at this from the bottom it seems utterly in credible that Rivera was able to descend this Mesa slope cliff with animals withoutKilling them

    Ketchump trail comes out on a short spur Road just south of the Dolores River bridge next to Highway 90 just before the cattleguard there's a Barbwire fence that you have to climb over. Looking at this from the bottom it seems utterly in credible that Rivera was able to descend this Mesa slope cliff with animals withoutKilling them

    At 6.4 miles from Highway 141 Our Rd. takes a sharp left hand turn down into saucer basin

    At 6.4 miles from Highway 141 Our Rd. takes a sharp left hand turn down into saucer basin

    Scratch that back t we 22

    Scratch that back t we 22

    I stopped at 5806 elevation looks like a straight shot through the PJs to the Butte

    I stopped at 5806 elevation looks like a straight shot through the PJs to the Butte

    Revere I must've loved climbing up into the uncompiled reply till he got to 7000 feet fairly soon

    Turn I turn right onto road 531

    Turn I turn right onto road 531

 

    I am from River less than a half mile watch for 504 road on your left take that Riviera route according to Steve and Baker goes up the canyon that this road crossings and climbs up out of

    Rivera ascended the bluff probably up a shallow draw he came upon this large plain near what is now the town of Nuka and headed east toward the end compadre plateau

    Rivera ascended the bluff probably up a shallow draw he came upon this large plain near what is now the town of Nuka and headed east toward the end compadre plateau

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mile 90  once the ascent out of Roubidoux Canyon is made the trail descends the broad bench known as Roubidoux Bench 

6.5 Miles to 1200 Road. Follow 1200 Road north to 1300 Road. Turn Left, travel to 25 Mesa Road. Turn Right, travel to 1400 Road. Turn Left, travel to F Road. Travel to Sundown Road, turn Right, travel to Sawmill Mesa Road. Turn Left, travel to the Roubidoux Creek bridge. End of Trail. Juan Maria Rivera had his final camp in this area the location of which can no longer be determined with accuracy as the Gunnison River course has changed greatly in the past 250+ years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mile 90  once the ascent out of Roubidoux Canyon is made the trail descends the broad bench known as Roubidoux Bench 

6.5 Miles to 1200 Road. Follow 1200 Road north to 1300 Road. Turn Left, travel to 25 Mesa Road. Turn Right, travel to 1400 Road. Turn Left, travel to F Road. Travel to Sundown Road, turn Right, travel to Sawmill Mesa Road. Turn Left, travel to the Roubidoux Creek bridge. End of Trail. Juan Maria Rivera had his final camp in this area the location of which can no longer be determined with accuracy as the Gunnison River course has changed greatly in the past 250+ years.

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Santo Tomas Church Abiquiu

Rivera Route Map 1

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Rivera Route Abiquiu to El Vado

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Abiquiu Plaza

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Rivera's first camp at junction of Abiquiu Reservoir, and Rio Canones

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Rio Nutria Crossing in Spring

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El Vado to Colorado

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Colorado border to Chimney Rock

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Chimney Rock to Durango