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Piedra River

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General Information

Description - The Piedra is located about as far south in Colorado as one can go. It flows south out of the San Juan Mountains to join the San Juan River to form Lake Navajo. This river offers exceptionally beautiful and varied wild trout fishing for large fish combined with a long but interesting Class IV whitewater run.

Recreation - The Piedra River is influenced greatly by snow runoff and summer storms. Its generally blown out during the very best late spring stonefly activity. In most years the river clears and fishes quite well by mid-June. August waters run 150-250 c.f.s. Getting onto the river requires a little direction.

South of U.S. Highway 160 the river is mostly private. But there is a short stretch of public access just north of the highway. With private property and steep canyons, the next access is at Sheep Springs, several miles upstream and off the county road paralleling the river. The next access is at the Road 25 bridge, roughly 12 miles north of the highway.

For boaters the Piedra River run is long with some significant drops, but also a lot of mellow water. This run is mostly a forested journey, though the heart of the Piedra runs through two gorgeous canyons. Most of the serious rapids of this run are contained in the two canyons. Be aware that the Piedra flows early. It usually peaks during the second half of May.

Climate - The Piedra River is situated in high, mountainous altitudes. Persons coming from lower elevations should be aware that time is needed to adjust to the higher elevations.

Warm days and cool to freezing nights can be expected in the mountains during the summer. July and August are usually the warmest months. During this time afternoon thunderstorms are common. Be prepared for both warm and chilly weather, as well as for rain showers.

Being at high elevation and fueled mainly by melting snow, the Piedra is a rather cold river. During the spring runoff the river is full of freshly melted snow, and the temperature of the water is especially cold.
Please make sure that you dress appropriately when participating in whitewater sports. Wear shoes that can protect feet if you bounce off rocks or walk out of a canyon in the event of an accident. Wet suits are mandatory when air and water temperature added together total 100 degrees or less. If total is less than 80 degrees, a full set of waterproof or wool garments on top of the wet suit should be worn.

Location - To find the Piedra travel east on Highway 160 from Durango, or west from Pagosa Springs to Chimney Rock. Look for Forest Road 621 or Road 9.20 to head upstream. Highway 151, five miles west of Chimney Rock, takes one downstream and to Navajo Rock.

Directions from Bayfield: Intermediate access to First Fork Bridge via Forest Road 622

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More Information

Additional Information:
Colorado Rivers & Streams - Colorado's rivers and streams are characterized by steep continuous drops in the mountains and slow moving big rivers in the plains. In the west the Colorado river and its many tributaries cut through the desert. Excellent fishing opportunities can be found throughout the state.


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