The Devil’s Causeway in Colorado.

'Offensively named’ gulch receives new moniker

Formerly known as ‘Dead Mexican Gulch,’ area now officially ‘Lost Sheepherder Gulch’

May 28, 2024

The Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board (CGNAB) has unanimously approved a name change for a gulch located 1.6 miles north of the Devil’s Causeway on the Flat Tops Wilderness. “Dead Mexican Gulch,” is now officially renamed “Lost Sheepherder Gulch,” a change made at the behest of the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and necessitated because the original name is “considered offensive,” according to a proposal by the CGNAB.

Commissioner John Martin suggested the name “Lost Sheepherder Gulch” at a BOCC meeting last August. The gulch, which is located in Routt National Forest in far northeast Garfield County, is home to a gravesite of a sheepherder believed to be Jose Belardi. It is no longer named on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maps, a practice that began with those printed in 2011.

A previous proposal sought to change the name to “Jose Belardi Gulch” but research by the naming board and History Colorado found that Belardi may have murdered two fellow sheepherders and spent time in prison before being struck by lightning and killed in the ill-named gulch. The stone gravesite features a marker bearing the words, “Jose Velarde (which is believed to have been carved erroneously), killed by lightning, Summer 1922.”

“It is not known when the marker was put in place or by whom,” the proposal notes. “The original submission spelled the name Velarde, but after a review of contemporaneous news accounts of the individual’s death, the proponent determined that Belardi was likely more accurate and so the spelling was amended.”