Places We Protect

San Miguel River Tabeguache Preserve


A river meandering through trees and sandy, grassy banks.
Tabeguache Preserve Valley view of San Miguel river at Tabegauche Preserve, Colorado. © Harold E. Malde

Protecting Rio Grande cottonwood communities in the floodplain of one of Colorado's last remaining free-flowing rivers.




Southwest Colorado: Montrose County, just upstream from the San Miguel River's confluence with Tabeguache Creek

Why TNC Selected This Site  

This preserve protects a broad floodplain supporting high-quality examples of the globally rare Rio Grande cottonwood/skunkbrush sumac and Rio Grande cottonwood/coyote willow riparian plant communities.

What TNC Has Done/Is Doing

In 1988, The Nature Conservancy protected 250 acres along the San Miguel River—the first site to be protected along this waterway. Now with two more preserves and cooperative projects with the Bureau of Land Management and other partners, we have helped to protect more than 30 miles of the river.

Preserving the riparian habitat is The Nature Conservancy's foremost concern at this preserve. This is accomplished through actions such as the following:

  • Non-native weed control (tamarisk, Russian olive and Chinese elm)
  • Educating the local community about the riparian plant and animal communities
  • Creating partnerships within the region to promote conservation




Picnicking, hiking, fishing, canoeing and rafting


610 acres

Explore our work in Colorado

Why You Should Visit    

More than 80 percent of Colorado's wildlife depends on rivers and riverside habitat. The San Miguel, one of the few remaining naturally functioning rivers in the West, supports some of the best riparian (streamside) habitat in the Upper Colorado Basin.

Natural flood cycles and a history of very little development have kept many parts of this river in pristine condition - much as they would have appeared before the state was settled.

A 7-mile stretch of the San Miguel meanders through the preserve, occupying a broad floodplain. Unlike areas upstream, the waters flowing through this site are tame and peaceful. 

What You'll See: Plants

Healthy examples of the rare Rio Grande cottonwood/coyote willow and Rio Grande cottonwood/skunkbrush sumac riparian plant community line the shores of the San Miguel River.

What You'll See: Animals

Among the notable wildlife you may see are bald eagles (only in winter), beavers, black bears, great blue herons, mountain lions, peregrine falcons and river otters.

What to Expect

The preserve is open year-round, dawn to dusk. To make the most of your trip, consider visiting the two other Nature Conservancy preserves upstream: San Miguel Canyon and South Fork.

Catch-and-release fishing is allowed, but only with artificial flies and lures. There is a short walking trail so that you can explore the area and do some wildlife watching. There is also a visitor area with an information kiosk, an outhouse and some picnic tables.

Consider bringing a raft, canoe or kayak to see the preserve from a different vantage point. There are no put-ins or take-outs on the preserve, but they can be found upstream and downstream.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit. The summer months can be very hot, and often buggy. If you visit during this time of year, bring bug repellent and plenty of sunscreen.