The Mighty Colorado – North Texas E-News

Grand County, Colorado — In November, the snow line slowly runs down the Never Summer Mountains with each passing storm. The leaves of the aspens have fallen to carpet the forest floor. The trout are dormant and entrenched out of the current of the Mighty Colorado River, preparing for another harsh winter and poor harvests for the next five months.

But if you were here in early October, those same cottonwood leaves painted the hills in brilliant shades of yellow, gold, and red.

Big brown trout gorged themselves on anything in sight as the days grew noticeably shorter. Conversations around tables at the Java Lava Café, a favorite breakfast stop for locals in Granby, Colorado, focused on the upcoming hunting season, but we were hunting for a brief encounter with a large bruising trout before returning it to the cold river waters. Mighty Colorado.

Brown trout caught and released in the Colorado River

The Never Summer Mountains must hold a special place in the hearts of trout anglers everywhere because this small mountain range gives rise to two legendary Gold Medal trout streams; the headwaters of the Colorado River are on the east side, and the North Platte River drains on the west side.

When you consider how many people depend on this precious water source, you’re reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “Never have so many owed so much to so few,” because the Never Summer Mountains stretch for only 10 miles across the north. edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, but downriver are 40 million people who depend on the precious water of the Mighty Colorado River and its many tributaries as the river begins its 800-mile journey toward Lake Mead and heads further to the south.

Eventually, the insatiable demand for water in the arid Southwest will reduce even the Mighty Colorado to a dry river bed.

During this current period of prolonged drought, it’s easy to see why the snow-capped Rocky Mountains are known as the nation’s water towers.

The Grand Canyon is 600 miles downriver from Rocky Mountain National Park, but this part of Colorado also has some spectacular scenery, particularly Gore Canyon.

Just west of Kremmling, Colorado, this remote stretch of the Colorado River has everything from Class 5 rapids when turbulent snow runoff churns through the three-mile canyon in the spring, to a trail that begins along from the south side of the river before climbing onto a narrow ledge that offers a breathtaking view of the river far below.

Aside from rafts and whitewater boats, the only traffic up here is the california zephyr as it meanders along a ledge on the north side of the canyon, ferrying passengers from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area.

the california zephyr passenger train meanders through Gore Canyon above the Colorado River.

Upstream, the Frazier River, Williams Fork River, and Blue River have joined forces with the Mighty Colorado. Even in late fall, when most trout streams are running low, the Colorado River up here is wide and mighty, as inspiring as it is formidable.

This wild country is a haven for wildlife…deer, elk, elk, bear and bighorn sheep are on the move in anticipation of the onset of winter.

Bighorn sheep near Gore Canyon

Byers Canyon is another interesting stretch of the Colorado River. Though not as scenic as its big brother downstream, Gore Canyon, Byers Canyon meanders along four miles of steep cliffs on the west side of the small town of Hot Sulfur Springs, Colorado. Intrepid fishermen negotiate the descent to the river’s edge to try their luck in the eddies and occasional puddles that splash along the river, like sirens luring you deeper into the canyon.

Cindy Rich wrestles a brown trout to the bank just below Byers Canyon.

Away from the canyons, this is farm and ranch country in the fall. Tractors stack hay while cattle and horses clean up behind the baler. The porches of the old farmhouses have firewood stacked high. This lowland produces mighty hay meadows traversed and nourished by the Colorado River.

When you need a break from hiking and fishing, there are many exciting places to eat and shop nearby. Grand Lake, Colorado is wonderful in late fall, though it is overrun with tourists in the summer. Granby, Colorado has several popular restaurants. Steamboat Springs is an hour away. A drive down Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in North America, brings you to Estes Park to spend a day listening to the sound of elk as you walk through downtown. The thriving city of Silverthorne is an hour’s drive south.

The 900-mile drive to North Texas must be planned well to make the long drive as enjoyable as possible. Coffee and a bagel at City on a Hill Coffee & Espresso in Leadville, Colorado starts the morning, followed by lunch by the river in Salida, Colorado. You are now on the Arkansas River and the big holes in public land downstream invite you to take one last plunge into the Rocky Mountains.

On the way home from the Colorado River, the Arkansas River is spectacular in late fall.

Coffee and snacks at Sugar and Spice Mountain Bakery in the beautiful little town of Westcliffe, Colorado prove that the rave reviews about this family-owned Mennonite bakery were on the money. You start the final leg of the journey home armed with a sack of dark chocolate covered coffee beans that will last 700 miles. The memories will last a lifetime.

A pretty rainbow trout breaks the surface in the Colorado River.

Looking towards the Colorado River just below Gore Canyon

Allen Rich with a rainbow trout before it is released.

Blue River just south of its confluence with the Colorado River.

electronic news boater/photographer Cindy Rich pauses to take a photo.

Climbing Cottonwood Pass

Going down Cottonwood Pass…weather can change quickly in the mountains

photos of Allen and Cindy Rich

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