This is the 46th in a weekly series celebrating Colorado Water 2012.
VALLEY — Many poems, short stories, and even a few country songs have depicted the love people have for water.
Not only is water the lifeblood that sustains bodies and allows residents to grow the crops that feed a hungry nation, it also provides abundant opportunities for fun. The third longest river in the United States, the Rio Grande offers a myriad of options to enjoy the outdoors without traveling out of the local community.
Opportunities for fishing abound from the headwaters and high mountain tributaries, through the San Luis Valley to the state line. Backcountry fly-fishing in the high country offers fishermen beauty, seclusion, and a chance to cook the day’s catch on a fire in the wilderness (please be advised of fire bans!). People also enjoy boating and fishing in the many high mountain reservoirs in the basin, such as the Rio Grande Reservoir.
As the river drops from the mountains and settles onto the Valley floor, anglers enjoy the gold medal fishery between South Fork and Hanna Lane. Gold medal waters are defined by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as areas with 60 pounds of trout per acre and at lease twelve 14” or larger trout per acre. This translates to an abundance of big fish, but also can lead to crowds of people flocking to these river reaches.
If a person is seeking solitude, floating and hiking along the middle and lower reaches of the Rio Grande offer peaceful beauty and wildlife viewing. The Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge hosts some of the San Luis Valley’s finest wetlands and wildlife habitat. A driving tour follows the Rio Grande through fields where nesting birds thrive. Because over 80 percent of wildlife species require riparian habitat, quiet visitors have the opportunity to see large species such as elk and deer, beautiful birds like blue herons, cranes, and great horned owls, and many more creatures near the river. Seeing these great animals is fun and exciting for kids and adults alike.
Adventure seekers can take a ride in a raft or kayak through the class II-III rapids of the Upper Box Canyon below the Rio Grande Reservoir or the class II-V rapids between the Lobatos Bridge and Taos. Be sure to time the trip to coincide with high flows; many of these areas are impassible in mid to late summer.
People of all ages enjoy camping in designated areas and on public lands throughout the watershed. The 1.8 million acre Rio Grande National Forest boasts 37 campgrounds; many are directly on the banks of the Rio Grande and provide access to wilderness areas and outdoor adventure hot spots.
Recreation on the Rio Grande does not have to involve a lot of gear and planning; it can be as simple as a drive up the scenic byways or a picnic by the water. While this article focused on recreation directly on the Rio Grande, the basin is also home to world-class backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, dirt biking, snowshoeing, skiing, and snowmobiling. This wealth of opportunities for outdoor enjoyment is largely due to the expansive public lands systems. For tips on where to go and outdoor safety once there, visit the offices of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or United States Forest Service (USFS).
Above all, remember to get out and experience the grandeur of the mountains and valleys we call home.
For more information on Water 2012 in the Rio Grande Basin, please visit www.rgwcei.org or www.water2012.org. Be sure to check out the Water 2012 KSLV radio shows, now online on the website. The next Rio Grande Roundtable meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 11th from 2 -5 p.m. at the Ramada Inn in Alamosa. Contact Mike Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org