Expanding Access to the Colorado River

Horse Creek boat landing, Colorado River, CO | © Ken Neubecker

The Horse Creek boat landing is just one of a handful of new public access points on the Colorado and Eagle Rivers| © Ken Neubecker

The upper Colorado River from Gore Canyon and Pump House down to Rancho Del Rio and State Bridge is one of the most heavily used river recreation corridors in Colorado. Nearly 80,000 people floated, kayaked and fished this reach last year. Below State Bridge the river is much less used, although no less enjoyable. Until now access has been a problem. On some lower reaches a day float was possible, but further up a float used to mean a very long day or even overnight.

That is changing.

I just spent a soggy couple of days on the Colorado River with the Southwest chapter of the River Management Society’s River Ranger Rendezvous. Even with the rains the small group of mostly BLM River Rangers and Recreation managers had a lot to talk about and learn.

One of the highlights of the event was the grand opening of the new Horse Creek boat landing at the Colorado River Ranch. This is one of several land and river access properties acquired over the past couple years through the Eagle County Open Space program.

Eagle County’s access landings at State Bridge, Two Bridges, Dotsero and now Horse Creek, combined with the BLM’s access points at Catamount, Pinball, Cottonwood Island and Lyon’s Gulch opens up nearly 47 miles of river to easier river recreation.

This reach below State Bridge doesn’t have the same white water thrills the upper river has and probably won’t ever see the same numbers of river enthusiasts. Still, there are still a couple rapids worthy of respect. But for the most part it is a slower, more family friendly stretch of river where solitude is more common. There are several campsites along the river, mostly “primitive”, and some accessible only by boat.

Eagle County and the BLM are working on an updated map of this lower reach. American Rivers looks forward to helping, compiling information about boat landings, camping, history, geology and the local environment, along with what people need to know for a safe and enjoyable one or multi day trip on the river. Eagle County hopes to make additional open space acquisitions on both the Colorado and Eagle Rivers that will enhance and improve the river recreation experience.

Hopefully the rains are starting to let up so the land can dry and the rivers clear up! Fall is possibly the best time to float and fish, especially on the Colorado and Eagle Rivers.