Southern San Luis Valley

Doing water rights right

The Southern San Luis Valley is located in south central Colorado. The history of the Native Americans, along with early Spanish and later Mexican settlers has endowed this landscape with a rich cultural heritage and a strong agricultural identity. The recently established Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area recognizes this area as the confluence of American Indian, Latino and Anglo cultures.   The acequia irrigation system is the lifeblood of these agricultural communities and supports a rich riparian and wetland system.  This area was recognized as a national priority for conservation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Colorado Open Lands has taken a unique approach to protecting the historic land and water rights in this community by employing both traditional and nontraditional conservation tools.  Colorado Open Lands has protected 109,185 acres in this landscape, but also has a partnership with the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association to organize the Colorado Congreso de Acequias and facilitates a water rights legal assistance program with the University of Colorado Law School.


Featured Projects:
Almunyah Dos Acequias
Costilla County, 181 Acres
Contains the oldest irrigation ditch in Colorado, which was hand-dug in 1851 and later widened and extended by plow. Awarded the first adjudicated water rights in Colorado, before Colorado became a state.
Big Wall

Huerfano County, 447 Acres
Colorado Division of Wildlife identified the property as winter, severe winter, and overall range for elk and mule deer. Development pressure around the Spanish Peaks has caused a shift in the range of the local elk herd, making this area a priority for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Los Caminos Farm

Los Caminos Farm
Costilla, 3,360 Acres
Certified organic farm with significant senior water rights. Critical winter ranch for the Trinchera elk herd, one of the largest in Colorado.


Trinchera Ranch
Costilla County, 81,400 Acres
Comprises the Western Slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between La Veta and Fort Garland. The largest donated easement in Colorado history.
Moon Mountain Ranch

Huerfano County, 250 acres
Formerly contained a narrow gauge railroad that brought fresh produce to Denver and Colorado Springs from points west. Visible from Old La Veta Pass Road and to visitors to the adjacent Uptop ghost town.

Culebra Creek Ranch
Costilla County, 160 Acres
Landowners are descendants of the original settlers of the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant, established in 1844. Contains the Culebra Creek, and 12 acres of wetlands.

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