Help protect Colorado's Browns Canyon, a one-of-a-kind rafter's paradise

Not everyone knows about Browns Canyon, Colorado, but they should.

Filmmakers Sam Bricker and Nathan Ward are going to help with that. They recently joined forces with The Wilderness Society and partner group Friends of Browns Canyon to create a short film about this rafter's paradise and lesser-known Colorado gem.

If you love wilderness, you will love the scenery and story in this inspiring film, The Spirit of Browns Canyon. 

Help us Protect Browns Canyon

The Wilderness Society is working to permanently protect Brown's Canyon as a new national monument with embedded wilderness.

Senator Mark Udall has been a long-time supporter of protecting the Browns Canyon area and is currently working on a bill that would protect Browns Canyon as a national monument.

If you live in Colorado, please join The Wilderness Society  in telling Sen. Udall that we support his proposal to protect Browns Canyon.

Click here to support protecting Browns Canyon

If you don't live in Colorado, you can still help us raise the profile of this campaign by sharing this story and The Spirit of Browns Canyon video on your social networks and web sites.

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Read about the making of the film: The Spirit of Browns Canyon

"Most people that live around here have never even set foot in Browns Canyon,” explains local filmmaker, Nathan Ward. “Access is a little challenging and honestly, people just don’t know it’s there. This has certainly kept it wild.”

The Wilderness Society and The Friends of Browns Canyon recently partnered to fund a short film on the Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area, 20,000+ acres between Salida and Buena Vista, Colorado.

This study area contains the most popular stretch of whitewater in North America, and a pristine section of rocky canyon land home to a wealth of wildlife including black bear, bighorn sheep, elk, bobcat, deer and mountain lion.

Ward and Samuel Bricker, co-founders of the Grit and Thistle Film Company, shot “The Spirit of Browns Canyon” in the fall of 2012.

This is the first film about the area and the first time that many Upper Arkansas River Valley locals have seen this natural treasure, even though it’s just ten or so miles from downtown Salida as the crow flies.  

“Being asked to make a film on Browns Canyon was a dream job for us,” states Ward. “How many chances in life are we given an opportunity to work on a project in our own backyard that has the potential to protect a truly wild area?”

Even though Ward is the author of the only hiking guidebook to the area around Salida and Buena Vista, he had never ventured into the heart of the Browns Canyon area before working on this film.What he found convinced  him completely that Browns Canyon needs to be protected.

“One day I waded across the Arkansas River and hiked up one of the many drainages that cut down to the river. Within an hour I found myself in a wonderland of rock spires, 100 foot high towers and sheer-walled canyons. I never knew something like this existed near Salida.” 

As he dug in deeper, he found caves with evidence of early settlers, rock domes split by gnarled pinyon pines and few signs of modern humans.

Within an hour I found myself in a wonderland of rock spires, 100 foot high towers and sheer-walled canyons. I never knew something like this existed near Salida. - Nathan Ward

“Beyond the land near the river, which is very popular with rafters and fly fishers, I only saw one other set of human footprints,” says Ward. He did, however, see one mountain lion.

“One night I was running late, but trying to capture the sunset on the rock domes across the river and I came around a big boulder and the air was absolutely filled with musk smell. I spun around, looking everywhere for the cat, but the smell faded, I filmed the sunset and went home. But two nights later in the same place, I hiked out after dark, got in my truck and after driving less than a minute, a full-size cat ran right in front of me. She was beautiful.”

In addition to making adventure films for television, The Grit and Thistle Film Company focuses on creating short films for environmental and conservation organizations.

“Film is one of the most effective ways to get the message out these days,” explains Bricker. “We can take an area or conservation issue, craft a short film about the need to protect it, and deliver the film right into every household computer in the country. We can even deliver it to their smart phones. It’s very effective and we are noticing the difference already in the local support for Browns Canyon. We use the media of the present and future to protect the age-old assets of the planet. It works.”

Map of Browns Canyon, Colorado by


Explore an Interactive Map of Browns Canyon:


Senator Mark Udall’s Office

The Friends of Browns Canyon, along with bipartisan lawmakers, is working towards permanent protection of Browns Canyon. To find out more about their efforts or to help, please visit their website at or email

Grit and Thistle Film Company highlights important conservation issues in their work. 

Photo credits: 

Photo I: View of Browns Canyon, Colorado. By: Susan Mayfield.

Photo II: The filmmakers with Colorado Senator Tom Udall. 

View a slideshow of Browns Canyon, Colorado

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