People have visited the Flattops for over
8,500 years. When Euro-Americans arrived in the 1860's most
of the area was occupied by bands of Ute Indians. The Utes were
forcibly removed from western Colorado after federal troops
violated a territorial agreement and the subsequent "Meeker
Massacre" of 1879 occurred.
In 1919, a Forest Service landscape
architect named Arthur Carhart was sent to Trappers Lake to
survey the area for the construction of several hundred
summer homes. Realizing the rarity of such wildernesses in
the American West, Carhart recommended no action be taken.
Later, teaming up with conservation great Aldo Leopold, the
preservation movement was underway. The Flattops played a
key role in the establishment of the National Wilderness
The Flattops Primitive Area was
established on March 5, 1932. Although primitive area
designation was not viewed as a general measure for
wilderness protection, it was seen as an interim way to
protect key lands. On December 12, 1975, the 235,230 acre
Flattops Wilderness was established. It is the third largest
Wilderness Area in Colorado.
Cradle of the Wilderness Areas
Trappers Lake on a still morning
The Colorado River cutthroat trout, once abundant in the wilderness, are now reduced in numbers and
distribution. Anglers are encouraged to use a catch and release approach with this sensitive species. Also found are
brook trout, rainbow trout and brown trout.