Oxbow / Overland Trail

Trailhead: Frank State Wildlife Area Trailhead.

Description: This section of trail covers a variety of terrain, from flat, level areas along grassy meadows to steeper slopes as the trail climbs into the hills south of the river. Here travellers can access Frank State Wildlife Area north of the Poudre Trail, including Bass Lake that can be used for fishing.

Features: A variety of wildlife can be seen along this section of the trail. In areas near the river and lakes species include white-tail deer, foxes, waterfowl, song birds, and raptors. In areas in the bluffs and hills species include prairie dogs, hawks, lark buntings, and rabbits.

Geology: This section goes through low-lying areas in the river’s flood plain, climbs the bluffs along the river where distinct oxbows in the river can be viewed from above. An oxbow in the river, also known as a “meander”, occurs when moving water erodes the outer banks of the river. Water on the outside begins to flow faster as sediment builds up on the inside creating a wandering, “snake-like” pattern in the river. The term oxbow derives from the U-shaped frames that fit around the neck of an ox and then pass through the yoke.

History: Part of this section is named for the famous Overland Trail which had two main forks in this area. From 1862 to 1868 the Overland trail was the main trail that  settlers took across the Great Plains in covered wagons as they looked to avoid conflicts with Indians occurring further north on the Oregon trail. During that time an estimated 20,000 settlers travelled along the trail each year.

Benjamin Eaton, the fourth governor of Colorado, homesteaded near the river in this area. He was a prominent figure in developing irrigation ditches to divert water from the river and move it to fields to grow crops. The BH Eaton ditch that the trail crosses in this section was originally built by him.

The Town of Windsor was founded in 1883, about the time the Colorado and Southern railroad connected Greeley to Fort Collins. Eaton was one of the original founders of the town.