This 241 mile tributary of the Colorado River begins its journey high (over 11,000 ft.) inside the boundaries of the San Juan National Forest, about 5 miles south of Lizard Pass. Initially the river flows southwest to the confluence with the West Dolores and then continues until it reaches the McPhee Dam. Eventually it is joined by the San Miguel River and keeps running through to Dewey Bridge where it empties into the Colorado.
Many consider the Delores a well-kept secret and wouldn’t mind if it stayed that way. It came to the attention of trout lovers after the completion of the McPhee Dam and the release of cold water created a world-class tailwater. In response, the Colorado Division of Wildlife introduced thousands of rainbow, brown and Snake River cutthroat and since then they have thrived.
The initial 12 miles down from the dam are limited to catch and release, lures and flies only, but the area is well signed and access is easy. The scenery here is also dramatic and beautiful, running through a steep, rocky canyon that is blanketed with Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, juniper and majestic cottonwoods. Waders will find the low gradient water welcoming with rifles, pools and slow bends, although pocket water tends to be scarce.
Trout average about 10-15 inches although much larger fish are there to be caught. Water can be low in the winter months, depending on how flows are managed at the dam, and it’s not uncommon for the river to ice over. As a result, in contrast to many other tailwaters, the Delores is not a year round fishery.