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Fishing: Colorado > Rio Grande National Forest > Divide Ranger District

Quick Facts

Rio Grande River

Satellite and Topo Map

General Description

Cutthroat Trout - 9.91
Copyright: Unknown
Cutthroat Trout - 9.91
Fishing on the Rio Grande River can bring in rainbow trout, native cutthroat and brown trout in all sizes up to 18 pounds. There are fishing easements at State Bridge and Granger Bridge. There is no state stocking downstream from the Highway 149 bridge at South Fork. Along Highway 149, between Collier Bridge and Masonic Park, bait fishing is prohibited.

The Rio Grande is a popular rafting area. Because of shallow water and many boulders, the river is better suited for rafting than canoeing and kayaking, although it is used by all three types of boaters. Raft races are held each spring during the peak runoff and provide entertaining contests for floaters from all over the state.

In general, the river is more difficult the further upstream you begin. Floatable sections include from Thirty Mile Campground, just below Rio Grande Reservoir, to State Bridge about 8 miles west of Del Norte.

Commercial raft rentals and trips are available in South Fork.

The Rio Grande River from Thirty Mile Campground to South Fork, Colorado is used for various forms of boating. The distance between these two points via the river is approximately 54 miles. River rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and tubing take place to one extent or another over portions of this section of the river.

The Rio Grande Raft Races which are held annually the second weekend in June take place between Wagon Wheel Gap to just above Masonic Park. Several outfitters offer guided raft trips along the river. If you are interested in a guided trip, the Divide Ranger District Office in Creede will assist you in obtaining more information.

The river from Thirty Mile Campground to the Rio Grande/Box Canyon Summer Home Group, located on the Hinsdale-Mineral County line, flows over public land. The lower four miles of this section of river, from just below River Hill Campground to the summer home group, flows through a narrow, steep, rocky canyon known as "Box Canyon." Depending on the season and the water level, this portion can either be innavigable due to low water levels, or dangerous to navigate if the water level is high and swift except to the most experienced kayaker.

Most of the river from the Rio Grande/Box Canyon Summer Home Group to South Fork flows over private land - only about five miles flows over Forest Service System Lands. Several barbed-wire fences cross the river at various locations, which pose a safety hazard to those who are running the river. While the private landowners do not own the water flowing across their land, the Courts have ruled they do own the land over which the river flows. Therefore, you should never get out of your raft onto private property without first obtaining the landowners permission. While most do not mind you floating across their private property, they do object to those who fish while floating through their property or get out of their rafts onto private property.

The river from the Rio Grande Campground/Fisherman Site, west of Marshall Park Campground, to South Fork seems to be the most popular and utilized stretch of river for such activities as rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. Rio Grande Campground, Marshall Park Campground, and Palisade Campground serve as good put-in points for the general public.

The best water occurs from mid-May to the third week in June. This is very dependent on spring runoff conditions. In low snow years, the river can remain relatively low, which makes navigation difficult due to the lack of bottom clearance and exposed rocks. In normal years, the early season provides adequate and swift water, and enough white water to thoroughly test the skills of the inexperienced and even provide a moderate challenge to the relatively experienced. In heavy snow years, the river can successfully be run even through most of the month of July. Water temperatures are always cold and hypothermia from exposure is a constant threat.

White water skill, however, is the most important ingredient in regards to safety. Many accidents are caused when rafters, canoeists, kayakers, etc. overestimate their own skills and tackle more river than they can handle. Knowing your own limitations and staying within these limitations is the first step towards a safe river-running experience.

If this section of the Rio Grande River is to remain beautiful and unspoiled, it is necessary for everyone to pack out all garbage, refrain from dumping litter in the river, and respect and stay off private property along riverbanks. In this way, we can assure that the fun and excitement we experience today can be shared with the future generations of tomorrow.

Amateur & Professional

Since 1960, the annual Rio Grande Raft Races have been held between Creede and South Fork along Colorado Highway 149. These races are held the second weekend of June each year.

Competing for more than $1000 in cash prizes, the World Champion professional racers put on a spectacular display of full-out, down river paddling. Nowhere in the sport of rafting can a more serious competition be found.

This stretch of the Rio Grande is easy, class III water. All races are visible to spectators from the highway. The program events include 11 different races, both professional and amateur. All races are scramble starts and more than 50 trophies are awarded to amateur racers.

Events include professional and amateur raft and canoe races, a dance on Saturday night and a special awards assembly. Come watch the races or grab a raft yourself!

Any rafter looking for a fierce competitive challenge should mark down the second weekend in June. It will be an experience one never forgets! Call (719) 658-2660 or (719) 658-2284 for more information.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Michelle Allen (Dallas, Tx)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: The best part about Creede is rafting down the upper Rio with Mountain Man Rafting. Greg Coln(owner)is so much fun to raft with and makes the raft trip enjoyable everytime I go!! One is able to see some of the most breath taking scenery from being on the river. The view is totally different from the hwy, so I suggest this trip for everyone!! The best place for lunch: hmm, that would have to be a sandwich and Dr. Pepper down by the river. You will walk away from this trip down the river feeling high on life and wishing that you could move there!! Remember to take the LOOP back around behind Creede... You are likely to see Moose, elk, bear, deer and big horn sheep!
Conditions: We sometimes encounter rain while traveling in the Creede and Wolf Creek Pass area, but that is to be expected. Rain or not, we still raft with Greg and he makes the trip enjoyable as do all his guides! Who cares if it wet, snowy, muddy, or rocky.. good grief, YOU are in COLORADO!!!! Expect it and deal with it!! It's beatiful no matter what kind of weather it is.
Water Availability: Last summer there was NOT ENOUGH WATER in the river to raft so ALOT of people were disappointed. Letting water out of the Rio Grande Reservoir might help many people enjoy their vacation to Creede a little more if the river gets low again.
Recommended Clothing: We generally wore shorts and t-shirts, however, be sure to pack for cooler weather especially if you camp. Nights are cool and so are early mornings.. the rain also cools things off a bit too. Always have a parka or poncho and some hiking boots to keep your feet dry. Water shoes of some sort are good to have for rafting as YOU WILL GET WET!!! A cap and sunglasses are a must and a water prrof camera for the raft trip. Video camera for the rest of the trip as you will want to remember the beatiful scenery for the rest of the year until you take your next trip!!
Suggested Accessories: A walking stick is great to have if you are planning on long hikes. I use a head lamp at night because I usually stay in a tent. It is much easier than using a flashlight, but those are handy to have in case of emergencies! Always carry some bottled water and a small 1st aid kit. A smile and an open and adventurous spirit helps too!! Enjoy your trip... there is no place like it!!

Recreation Opportunities
Activity Remarks On Site
ICON Other Watercraft Tubing; most popular from Rio Grande Campground to South Fork
ICON Cold Water Fishing Rainbow, brown trout and native cutthroat
ICON Canoeing Most popular from Rio Grande Campground to South Fork
ICON Kayaking Most popular from Rio Grande Campground to South Fork
ICON Rafting Best suited for rafts; Most popular from Rio Grande Campground to South Fork
ICON Rivers & Streams Rio Grande River

Related Activities
Marshall Park Campground - This site is located near Colorado Hwy. 149 and is the closest forest campground to Creede. There is very little screening or trees, so heavy vehicle traffic along Colorado Hwy. 149 is visible.

Palisade Campground - Some sites are open, while other sites are screened with cottonwoods/aspen/spruce/fir. Campground is located adjacent to Colorado Highway 149 for easy access to travelers passing through.

Rio Grande Reservoir - This is a scenic high mountain reservoir with access to wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities. There are five campgrounds, picnic areas, many trails leading from the area and a jeep road with a historical site.

Rio Grande Reservoir Road 520 Scenic Drive - Beautiful mountain scenery and numerous recreation facilities are found along the Rio Grande Reservoir Road #520.

River Hill Campground - This campground has good screening with trees on many sites and remains full from mid-June through August. It is adjacent to Rio Grande River and Little Squaw Resort.

Road Canyon Campground - This campground usually has vacancy when other upriver campgrounds are full. The area is open, with no screening or trees, and it is not screened from Rio Grande Reservoir Road.

Road Canyon Reservoir - This is a scenic high mountain reservoir that has good fishing and is suitable for all but large boats and motors.

Thirtymile Campground - Campground and trailhead are located 31.1 miles southwest of Creede on Forest Road #520. Adjacent to Rio Grande River and Thirty Mile Resort.

More Information
Frequently Asked Questions
Email the Local Ranger

Visitor Information:

Divide Ranger Station, 13308 West US Highway 160, P.O. Box 40 , Del Norte, CO, 81132, Phone: 719-657-3321, TTY: 719-657-6038


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