Description - The Roaring Fork River is a freestone river that has many different faces as it travels throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. It originates on Independence Pass and culminates at the confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Multiple rivers, including the Crystal and Frying Pan, flow into it on its progress toward the Colorado.
Copyright: Zander Higbie-Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
The Roaring Fork River, just below Carbondale
- The Roaring Fork is a Gold Medal freestone river that originates above Aspen near Independence Pass and winds its way down the valley about 70 miles. It culminates at its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Throughout this relatively short distance the Roaring Fork falls more in elevation than the Mississippi River does in its entire length, which gives it many different faces. These characteristics make it attractive for many types of recreation activities.
Recreation - The Roaring Fork River is a popular destination among fishermen, rafters and kayakers. For walking and wading anglers the Roaring Fork is a brawling river that lives up to its name as it tumbles down from 12,000 foot Independence Pass. The Roaring Fork provides the best winter fishery, in the state, for large trout and trophy mountain whitefish. The Fork delivers good fishing except during spring runoff. Nearby camping is limited but accommodations are available in the resort towns of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, and the smaller communities of Basalt and Carbondale.
With the added flows of the Fryingpan and Crystal rivers upstream, the Roaring Fork becomes big water. Chest waders, preferably with cleats, are recommended. The best way to fish this water is by floating down it. Inquire locally for guides and outfitters.
The Roaring Fork is a great nymph-fishing river, with Golden Stone flies, Hares Ears and Renegades being consistently effective. Big stone-flies hatch in June, smaller ones as the summer progresses and both mayfly and caddis hatches continue on into the fall. These varied hatches make the Roaring Fork good for dry flies too, especially in the evenings. Lure fishing is particularly effective in early summer as runoff waters are dropping.
The trout in the Roaring Fork are a mix of Browns and Rainbows, with average fish from 12-18 inches and larger. The most unusual aspect of this fishery is the opportunity to catch the states biggest whitefish when nymphing the river in winter or during their spawn in October. Small nymphs drifted on the bottom work best for this soft-mouthed fish.
The Roaring Fork River from Basalt to Glenwood Springs is a delight for the floating fisherman. Whether using a raft or a dory, the fish you can reach, the water you can cover and the magnificent scenery, bring many anglers back year after year.
Floating is one of the most effective ways to access the Roaring Fork. The floating fisherman is not only able to cover more water in a day, than the wading fisherman, but is also able to access the private water, which is inaccessible to the fisherman on foot.
Although the Upper section of the Roaring Fork (above Basalt) is inaccessible for float boats due to the fact that the water can be fast and narrow with many rapids in places, the middle and lower sections of the Roaring Fork are some of the finest floating water in the state.
The Roaring Fork River is equally popular with whitewater enthusiasts as it is with fishermen. The Roaring Fork offers exciting whitewater territory, close to Highway 82. The river flows by colorful canyons of red, yellow and brown sandstone dotted with colorful Aspen trees. The most popular section of the river for whitewater sport are the upper section, for its fast and narrow current with many obstacles. The lower section is very popular with beginners although it can still be exciting for intermediates, especially before Glenwood Springs in Cemetery Rapids.
There are many opportunities to put-in and take-out along the Roaring Fork, which allows for experiencing many different sections. The Roaring Fork has take-outs spaced so that a short afternoon whitewater trip is easily possible, unlike many other rivers which require overnight trips between take-outs.
The convenient and exciting rapids with the spectacular Mt. Sopris as a backdrop make the Roaring Fork a superb destination for whitewater sports. In order to have a safe and enjoyable trip, make sure that you follow the proper precautions, and are considerate of those that share the river.
Climate - The elevation of the Roaring Fork River ranges from 5,000 to 12,000 feet. 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 Roaring Fork 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.
The Roaring Fork is popular for fishing year round. The middle and lower parts of the river remain clear of ice throughout the year. The Upper Fork is not well known for its winter fishing, but when not iced over, can offer incredible fishing. This part of the river remains fishable throughout most of the year and, even during the spring runoff, can be clear enough to offer superb fishing. Usually the spring runoff occurs during late May and June. The runoff is not the most popular time of year for fishing as the river becomes high and discolored, but rafters and kayakers take full advantage of this time as the rapids are at their most exciting.
The Roaring Fork can be accessed by taking I-70 from Denver to Glenwood Springs. Highway 82 then follows the river for its entire course up to its origination on Independence Pass. The river can easily be seen for its entire length along the highway, and there are numerous points for public access.
A. Unimproved ramp just below Upper Bypass bridge on Two Rivers Road.
B. Unimproved ramp just below Basalt from Two Rivers Road at the bottom end of the Family Pool.
C. Unimproved ramp across from Basalt Industrial Park just upstream of Hooks Bridge from Willits Lane.
D. Improved ramp at the Sopris RV Park, accessed from Highway 82 at the 10.4 mile marker, follow signs.
E. Semi-improved ramp just upstream of West bank Bridge on north side of river. Accessed from Highway 82 at the five mile marker.
F. Improved ramp at the Two Rivers Park. Accessed from Highway 6 & 24 west of the main Glenwood Springs I-70 intersection, follow signs.
Basalt to Carbondale € This 14-mile float is by far the most technical stretch of water that the floating fisherman will encounter on the Roaring Fork. It is usually only floatable from the middle of May through the middle of July due to the volume of water needed to get through a series of diversion dams. The river in this section is narrow and fast, with many braids in its lower part, and is best left to the experienced floater.
Carbondale to West Bank € This eight-mile float (and the six miles from West Bank to Glenwood Springs) are the most popular sections with floaters. The river can be floated at any time of the year. This is the easiest stretch of the Roaring Fork to float, even a less experienced oarsman should have no trouble here.
West Bank to Glenwood € This six-mile float falls more in elevation than the Carbondale to West Bank section. Cemetery Rapids, located just upstream of Glenwood Springs, is a fast stretch of water that requires some maneuvering around large boulders.