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Colorado

Mexican Cut Preserve


Preserve Highlights

Set atop 12,080-foot high Galena Mountain, Mexican Cut is the highest Conservancy-protected land in the world. Mexican Cut contains a "glacial cirque" - an area once carved flat by ancient glaciers that now houses a series of high alpine ponds.

Unusual aquatic creatures inhabit the glacial ponds and wetlands dotting the preserve. Many of these ponds contain salamanders that don't fully develop, ending up as odd-looking, fish-like creatures - with two front legs and a tail - that never leave the water.

Mexican Cut has been protected since 1966. Its remote location and excellent condition make for a fantastic natural laboratory. Recent topics studied here include:

  • Alpine flowers and their pollinators
  • Population dynamics of butterflies, and
  • Acid rain in alpine lakes. 
What does "Cut" refer to?

No one really knows how this area got its name. Speculation suggests that "cut" was an attempt to translate the scientific term "cirque" (see above).

Location

Southwestern Colorado: near Crested Butte - about five miles northwest of the town of Gothic 

Size

950 acres 

Why The Conservancy Selected This Site

To preserve the pristine glacial ponds and wetlands as well as the wildlife they support 

What The Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

Acquired in 1966, Mexican Cut was the first place The Conservancy protected in Colorado. The Conservancy then leased Mexican Cut to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, which continues to manage the preserve - both for its biological values and its function as a living laboratory.

In 1978, it was the first place in Colorado designated as a Research Natural Area by the Colorado Natural Areas Program. (Later, the Colorado Water Conservation Board protected the watershed when they acquired the "non-consumptive use" water rights.)

Research at Mexican Cut is ongoing and includes a wide range of topics. An ongoing study explores the effects of acid rain on the composition of glacial pools.

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