Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a journalist and photographer based in Port Jervis, NY and Alexandria, Va.

Filtering by Tag: Weld County

Oil Drilling is Slated For Base Of Pawnee Buttes

I didn't know this when I posted about the Pawnee Buttes on Monday, but Carrizo Oil and Gas has received a permit from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to drill several wells from a pad to be built within about a half mile of the buttes. The drilling and fracking site would be on the right side of the image above, just to the right of the easternmost (righthand) butte. To wit:

Here's an overview of all the wells around the Pawnee Buttes:

Here's the data for the Carrizo well, which you can see permitted above as the red dot inside the green circle just south of the Pawnee Buttes at the south edge of Section 22:

The brisk march of nature's wrath

I guess getting a great image is supposed to trump extreme personal discomfort when out in the field, but when it comes to mosquitoes, I admit weakness. This storm marched over northern Colorado Wednesday night, producing a steady and spectacular light show as the sun set. These storms are pretty typical around here, and each one is incredibly beautiful.

When I opened my car door on the side of Harmony Road just east of Timnath to capture the incredible cloud-to-cloud lightning coursing across this classic cumulonimbus,  the mosquito assault was immediate and brutal. I shot three frames, 15 or so seconds each, and then I packed it up. You only have to get West Nile virus once to develop a zero tolerance policy for bloodsuckers.

The New West dawns at the Pawnee Buttes

THE NEW WEST HAS FINALLY ARRIVED at the Pawnee Buttes in northern Weld County, Colorado. The buttes are the icons of the northern Colorado Great Plains, two giant nipples protruding from the range land in a valley that has more in common with the South Dakota badlands than anything else in Weld County.

This has always been a dusty, empty place that, until recently, has felt like the old Frontier. The nearest town, Grover, boasts about 100 residents, and there's little else in any direction until you arrive in Sterling, Greeley, Ault, Cheyenne or Fort Collins. Indeed, the highest point in Nebraska is closer to the Pawnee Buttes than any of those cities.

Enter the New West. In 2007, a wind farm was built atop the Chalk Bluffs just north of the buttes, and now it's nearly impossible to photograph the Pawnee Buttes from the trail without your image being graced with twirling turbines.

And now, this, just below the wind farm and northwest of the buttes:


There are many dozens of new wells that have appeared around Grover, so many that Noble Energy paved a truck bypass around town. The prize: oil from the Niobrara Formation. A gusher was drilled west of Grover about a year ago, and now the rush is on to poke holes into the ground to pump out the oil and natural gas found beneath the plains.

Even with a drilling rig exploring for black gold just to the northwest of Pawnee Buttes, the buttes themselves are still quite a sight:

For more Pawnee National Grasslands images, visit my Colorado Great Plains gallery here.