The Eagle and upper Colorado rivers are at the heart of a nationally recognized recreational area in Eagle County, Colorado. The Eagle and Colorado Rivers flow west toward Utah and the great canyons of the Colorado Plateau. The watershed of the Eagle lies almost entirely within the county’s borders, something unique in Colorado.
The Upper Colorado and Eagle are surrounded by ranches and natural canyons with tall cliffs and steep slopes. Formations of sandstone, shale and volcanic intrusions gaze down at the river as you float pass. Spruce trees, cottonwoods and a variety of other riverside shrubs border the river. In the distance, forests can be seen climbing the mountains, with various shrubs and grasses in the lower foothills.
Smooth and playful rapids are dispersed throughout the two rivers. Family friendly rafting, tubing and wading are common occurrences during the hot summer months. From small children to dogs, teens and families, seeing people enjoying and connecting with their river, their special place is a delight.
Fly-fishing fanatics have found a home on these rivers in Central Colorado. Many public access points are dispersed along the river where fisherman wading or boating with a fly rod in hand are the norm. Cool, shaded ponds line the river where Brown and Rainbow trout can be caught with ease. If you are lucky, you might catch a Cutthroat or Brook trout as well, but these are much less common.
If fishing isn’t your thing but birding and wildlife viewing catches your fancy, these rivers are for you. Bald eagles, blue herons, ducks, geese and other raptors are commonly seen. If furry animals are more your speed, fox, sheep, beaver, and an occasional deer or elk roam the riverside as well.
Spending time on your local river, your favorite treasured place, is something we can all do more of in the summer. The Eagle and Upper Colorado are two very special places in Colorado. Not only do these two rivers offer a place for the local community and tourists to get out on the river and have fun, but they also provide the community with a strong economy and sense of place.
People in Eagle County have long cared for the Eagle and Upper Colorado Rivers. The efforts to clean up the Eagle Mine Superfund site, the fight for the river and wilderness in the Homestake II case and the earlier efforts to keep Denver Water’s Eagle-Piney project at bay and I-70 from destroying the Gore Creek Valley above East Vail are examples of the Eagle Valley’s determination to protect its rivers.
Today the Eagle Valley is home to a new generation who are the heirs of these past efforts on behalf of the Eagle and Colorado rivers. Entities like the Eagle River Watershed Council, Eagle County, municipalities, outfitters and recreation organizations to work with the local community strengthen the ties to the rivers. The Eagle Valley Land Trust and Eagle County Open Space have acquired new land parcels along both rivers, opening up greater opportunities to enjoy the Eagle and Colorado.These parcels join many other access points and lands.
In 2011, Eagle County Open Space (ECOS) and several partners began a concerted effort to protect the river corridor and improve access along some of the quieter and less visited stretches of the Colorado River through the Colorado River Initiative. This Initiative connects river recreationalists to some of the more off-the-beaten-path sections of the Upper Colorado by developing new river access points and connecting existing public lands through land acquisition and conservation easements. Since 2011, six new parcels have been acquired in underutilized reaches of the Upper Colorado as a part of this effort.
Eagle County is fortunate to have two beautiful rivers flowing through its boundaries, which are assets for recreation, tourism and community health. The Eagle and Upper Colorado Rivers connect a number of existing initiatives to form a strong, connected river corridor system for locals and tourists to enjoy.
Holly Loff, Executive Director of the Eagle River Watershed Council: “Rivers have always been at the heart of our family time. And we experience great things there together. We’ve watched goslings attempt their first swim, collected snail shells, caught laughably small fish and admirably large fish together, and so much more. Blue Trails help families like mine more easily enjoy their rivers. Whether through tubing, casting a line, or sitting in a lawn chair and watching the birds, a day on the river is good for everyone. I believe that if people experience their river, they will want to protect it – and our rivers need as many guardians as they can get.”