A well kept secret, the Eagle River, once desecrated by mining waste, is now a restored, healthy and great place to fish. This freestone river starts its journey at over 10,000 feet on the west side of the Continental Divide near Tennessee Pass. During its first 25 miles it drops over 2,400 vertical feet and can only be fished by wading. The first access site is near Camp Hale, famous for training the 10th Mt. Division during WWII, where it is surrounded by scenic Alpine meadows. Here the river is a near-perfect, brown trout habitat with fast water and numerous pockets.
Named by the Ute Indians, who compared the river’s many branches and streams to the feathers of an eagle’s tail, the river flows northward through the Vail Valley until it is joined by Gore Creek near the town of Minturn. At this point the river turns west and basically follows I-70 until it meets up with the Colorado River in Dotsero.
Although the entire river can be waded, because it is a freestone river, water levels can vary considerably throughout the year and conditions can be challenging. Strong currents are frequent as are swirling, invisible teacups. Slick rocks line the river bottom, often described by Eagle River vets as “greased bowling balls.” Before entering, you might consider bringing studded wading boots and/or wading staffs as well as obtaining up-to-date stream flow data.
The lower portion of the river from Minturn down can be floated in a drift boat, although going with a guide who knows the waters is also worth considering. Given that there are several privately owned sections of the river, a boat will give you entry to waters you might otherwise miss. The river is not known for an abundance of fish, but both the rainbows and browns are wild and often exceed 20 inches. The limit on the lower river is 2 trout per person.