Where would we be in Western Colorado without our beloved cottonwood trees? They provide lots of shade for our parks and neighborhoods, a habitat for local wildlife, and sometimes they can remind us of history that should not be forgotten.

The western slope is home to some very old cottonwood trees often found near some of the area's major rivers. One of the state's oldest Western Cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) can be found at the James M Robb Colorado River Island Acers State Park near Grand Junction. Another ancient and noteworthy cottonwood stands in the town of Delta, just north of the Gunnison River.

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Ute Indians in Western Colorado

Signs of the native Ute Indians are all around Western Colorado. Anthropologists say they may have been on the northern Colorado plateau as many as 2000 years ago. Many Ute legends about spirit animals on Colorado's Grand Mesa, and the infamous Thunderbirds are still passed on today. Several places in Western Colorado are home to Ute petroglyphs, rock art, and even markers the tribe would use when it was time to hold council.

The Ute Council Tree

Ute Council Tree in Delta, Colorado
Google Street

As you travel south to Delta from Grand Junction, you'll notice several cottonwood trees just north of the Gunnison River. A Ute trail led through here, and one of the cottonwoods on it grew so big and mighty that it became a marker and meeting place for the Utes near the Gunnison River for most of the 1800s.

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The tree is believed to have been a sapling around the year 1800. Chief Ouray and the Ute Indians would have used the Ute council tree countless times until about 1875. This cottonwood was designated as the Ute Council Tree by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1930. A plaque stands next to the tree detailing the significance of what still is a sacred place to the Ute people. The photo of the full tree above was taken in 2012 before the crown was cut off.

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Where is the Ute Council Tree in Delta?

Ute Council Tree in Delta, Colorado
Google Maps

The Ute Council Tree is said to have lived for 200 years before it started to lose its branches. The nearly 80-foot crown was cut down for safety reasons in 2017, leaving the original 23-foot stump as a memorial found today at the corner of G96 Lane and 1550 Road near the Gunnison River.

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MORE: Thirteen Cool Facts About Colorado’s Uncompahgre River

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LOOK: See All 22 of Delta, Colorado's Downtown Murals

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Gallery Credit: Wesley Adams

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