CMC's Denver Fly Fishing Section
Colorado Rivers Information

Page One (A - C)


Below is a list of Colorado rivers
Forks of rivers that share the same name are normally not listed. General locations and descriptive summaries* are included. Locations correspond to a 3x3 "tic-tac-toe" partition of the state with Denver and Colorado Springs in the central section.

Colorado has 60+ rivers.
Most were generously named, at least by Eastern standards. A large river may be only 100 feet wide. Also, locals refer to some creeks as rivers, e.g. the St. Vrain River. This list defers to the US Geological Survey's stream name.

Name Region
Alamosa South
The Alamosa, a 25-30' stream in the San Luis Valley, is used heavily to irrigate local farms. Fishing is poor throughout much of the river. The Summitville Superfund project is ongoing for mine waste above Terrace Reservoir. Lower stretches flow through private land before "disappearing" near Adams Lake south of the town of Alamosa.
Animas SW
The Animas River flows from the San Juan Mountains north of Silverton through Durango and into New Mexico. Gold Medal waters and most public access are near Durango. The river supports browns, rainbows and cutthroats. The Animas is the largest freestone river in Colorado and one of the highest floatable rivers in North America at 9,000'.
Apishapa South
& SE
The Apishapa, Ute for "stinking water," forms in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It flows northeast, between Trinidad & Walsenberg, past Aguilar to join the Arkansas near Fowler. The Apishapa usually flows cold to Aguilar in non-summer months.

Best fishing is in the mountainous upper stretches. Heavily used for irrigation, flows tend to be sluggish, muddy and warm upon reaching valley floors.
Arikaree East
& NE
The North and South Forks of the Arikaree begin near Limon. This warm-water prairie stream hosts a high proportion of native fish as it flows east, then northeast to Kansas.
Arkansas Central
& SE
The Arkansas River flows 300 miles from headwaters above Leadville to the Kansas state line. The removal of mining waste above Leadville has dramatically improved trout fishing. The cold-water fishery extends 125 miles to tailwaters below Pueblo Dam. The vast majority of trout are browns.

There are many access points as the river parallels Hwy 24, from Leadville to Salida; then Hwy 50 from Salida to Pueblo. The most popular stretch runs from Buena Vista to Canon City. This area, known as the Banana Belt, is ice-free longer than most Colorado trout streams.

The Arkansas is best known among fly fishermen for the Mother's Day Caddis hatch. The hatch actually begins around April 15th and lasts until runoff. The Arkansas fishes as a freestone river in the cold-water section. Stoneflies there are numerous and an indicator of much-improved water quality.
Bear NW
The Bear River is the headwaters for the Yampa River, southwest of the town of Yampa. Several reservoirs impound the stream which originates in the Flat Tops Wilderness. The Bear offers fly fishers the opportunity to land the grand slam (brook, brown, rainbow, cutthroat) in one day.

The stream consists of pocket water and riffles interspersed with rapids and beaver ponds. The upper stretch is normally about 20 feet wide and lined with willows. The Bear River loses much elevation before forming the Yampa River east of town.
The Big Thompson River is a tributary of the South Platte that begins in Forest Canyon Pass in Rocky Mountain National Park. Fishing waters begin at Moraine Park near the eastern entrance to RMNP. The river is damned at Lake Estes in Estes Park. The Thompson is a Brown and rainbow fishery popular with Front Range anglers.

Most fly fishers frequent the canyon waters that parallel Hwy 34. Much of the river in the canyon is pocket water mixed with riffles, runs and pools. The river descends rapidly through Big Thompson Canyon pass the town of Drake and emerges from the foothills west of Loveland. The Big Thompson then flows across prairie and joins the South Platte near Greeley.
Blanco SW
The Blanco is a tiny freestone river ranging from ten to twenty feet wide. Also known as the Rio Blanco, it's a tributary of the San Juan. Much of the water is removed by the San Juan-Navajo Diversion Tunnel.

Best fishing is in side creeks and Rito Blanco. The Blanco is reached via Hwy 84 south of Pagosa Springs. Most trout are in the 7-12" range. The Blanco joins the San Juan on the Southern Ute Reservation.
Blue Central
The headwaters of the Blue begin below Hoosier Pass and flows north through Breckenridge into Lake Dillon. Much of the river above Breckenridge is private. From Breckenridge to Lake Dillon are both public and private stretches. This section was once dredged for minerals. Brown and brook trout dominate this section

Below Lake Dillon, the Blue River is a tailwater fishery holding large Browns and rainbows. The large fish are due to Mysis Shrimp. Cold water emanates from the bottom of Lake Dillon and dictates when fish feed. This technical, popular stretch flows under I-70 and through Silverthorne.

The Blue below Silverthorne is a scenic stream with good access until Green Mountain Reservoir. Below the reservoir is limited public access. The Blue joins the Colorado River below Kremmling.
Cache La Poudre North
The freestone Cache La Poudre is a rainbow and brown trout fishery in the mountains west of Fort Collins. Hwy 14 parallels the river in Poudre Canyon. The river begins at the Continental Divide, then drops five thousand feet in 50 miles. The Cache La Poudre merges with the South Platte east of Ft Collins.

Trout utilize pockets, deep pools and eddies around obstructions as shelter from the steep gradient. The most popular stretch is the northern sector between the town of Rustic and Big Bend Campground. There are two designated Wild Trout Waters.
Canadian North
The Canadian River is a small, willow-lined tributary of the North Platte in North Park near the town of Walden. Headwaters are in the Medicine Bow Mountains near Clark Peak. The best fishing is reportedly near the Colorado State Forest.
Chama SW
The Chama River, also known as the Rio Chama, is a tributary of the Rio Grande. The Colorado headwaters lie in the South San Juan Wilderness. The Colorado section is a shallow freestone stream, 15-25 feet wide, that tumbles south to the New Mexico state line.
Cimarron West
The Cimarron is a shallow, freestone that flows into Morrow Point Reservoir Dam on the Gunnison east of Montrose. Fishing is good throughout much of the river and side streams for a variety of trout. A kokanee salmon run occurs in the fall.
Colorado Central
& West
The Colorado River most familiar to Front Range anglers lies in Middle Park, a two-hour drive from Denver. From Hot Sulphur Springs to Kremmling are many popular, leased public stretches. Brown trout predominate.

The Colorado below Kremmling, after Gore Canyon, increases dramatically in speed and width. Conditions range from ranch lands with slow moving water to canyons and white water. Access is limited.

From State Bridge to Dotsero, the river valley takes on an arid, meandering tone with slow pools and long, deep runs. Between Dotsero and Glenwood Springs lies Glenwood Canyon. Boulders and fluctuating white water predominate.

The final good trout fishing stretch parallels I-70 from Glenwood Springs to New Castle and Silt. Downstream, the river transforms to a warm-water fishery.
Conejos SW
The scenic Conejos is a small river by Colorado standards. It starts above Platoro Reservoir in the South San Juan Wilderness near the New Mexico state line. The Conejos River has fishing access, easements and Wild Trout waters on more than 60 of its 78 mile course.

One can catch brown, rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout. The Conejos joins the Rio Grande River in the San Luis Valley. Most of the river downstream of Antonito flows through private land.
Crystal West
The Crystal River is a freestone tributary of the Roaring Fork River. Headwaters arise in the Elk Mountains below Schofield Pass. The Crystal flows past Marble and Redstone to join the Roaring Fork below Carbondale. The river holds a variety of trout plus mountain whitefish
Cucharas South
The 70 mile-long Cucharas begins near Trinchera Peak in the Sangre de Cristo range. The Cucharas is 20' at its widest and lies entirely in Huerfano County. It flows northeast through the towns of Cuchara, La Veta and Walsenberg before ending at the confluence with Huerfano Creek. Public access is limited. Fishing in the Cucharas River Valley is for rainbow, brown and brook trout.
Name Region

* Many descriptions are derived from Marty Bartholomew's Flyfisher's Guide to Colorado
& Kip Carey's Official Colorado Fishing Guide.

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