Lengthy and litigated is a great way to describe this river. Starting high in the Rockies at La Poudre Pass (elevation over 10,000 feet) the river flows south and west for another 1450 miles before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Compacts, treaties and reams of legislation have determined the course of this river for the past two centuries. Luckily, within the state of Colorado the river remains a largely unencumbered, freestone fishery.
Initially, the river winds its way through the Rockies along the western slopes of the Continental Divide. The river gathers momentum as mountain streams and tributaries flow into it. Further along, it gains additional force with the confluence of the Blue, Eagle, and the Roaring Fork rivers. Its Rocky Mountain run ends after passing through De Beque Canyon and opens into the agricultural flats of the Grand Valley. Here it meets with one of its largest tributaries, the Gunnison, at Grand Junction.
A short drive from Basalt to Glenwood Springs will get you to great trout waters. At this point, its pocketwaters, rifles and pools are flush with rainbows and sizeable browns, ranging from 13 to 20 inches. Guides and experienced anglers will tell you that the bows and browns here are among the toughest to catch in the state, surely an enticing invitation to fishermen who enjoy a challenge. Cutthroat and brook are said to be easier to catch and can be found in limited numbers a bit farther north, closer to its headwaters.
While indigenous people have lived along the river for thousands of years, it wasn’t until after 1846, when the Americans won the war with Mexico, that new-world explorers began to fully appreciate the full course and commercial importance of the river. In fact, it took until 1869 for an American explorer, J.W. Powell, to actually run the rapids of through the entire Grand Canyon. Now of course, the Colorado is the main source of water for millions of westerners. If you are an angler traveling with friends and family that aren’t that enthusiastic about fishing, the river provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities from wilderness hiking to river rafting and other outdoor sports.