Mention the upper Colorado River and many of those who know it will reflect upon the popular put-in site at Pumphouse Recreation Area and the splashy, fishing-friendly water that flows some 15 miles down to Colorado 131 at State Bridge.
An increasing crowd of adventurers has shifted its attention a few miles farther downstream, to Bond, courtesy of the Eagle County Open Space Program, which purchased and refurbished the boat ramp commonly referred to as Two Bridges Access Point in 2012. Still others may make their way another nine miles beyond, to a public access point known as Catamount, where a trickling, temperamental creek of the same name can alter the larger river’s complexion in an instant.
Beyond is where the secrets lie.
“It’s amazing how few people come down here,” said Jack Bombardier, owner of the Confluence Casting guide service nestled along the Colorado River where many might assume a blank spot on the map. “Maybe the new boat ramp will change it, but right now there’s never anybody on the river.”
The ramp of reference is situated on a little-known sliver of Eagle County known as the Horse Creek River Access, a two-acre easement on the 1,000-acre Colorado River Ranch about 12 miles up the Colorado from its Eagle River confluence alongside Interstate 70 at Dotsero. To some degree, it fills that hole in the map, connecting what might be known as the “middle” Colorado as it wends its way upstream past Pinball Point, Red Dirt Creek and the tiny town of Burns before rejoining the established river community at Catamount en route to McCoy.
The Horse Creek Access Area, another offering of Eagle County Open Space, is a few miles downstream from Bombardier’s riverside residence, and he knows the surrounding 20 miles of flowing water arguably better than anyone. He expects to log his 500th float down the secluded middle Colorado sometime this fall.
And aside from the relatively recent addition of Paul Newman’s Roundup River Ranch camp for chronically ill kids, Bombardier will tell you this new boat ramp may be the biggest thing to happen to a neighborhood that otherwise hasn’t really changed in more than 25 years.
While a ramp for river rafting can seem like a small thing, the reality is it’s a pretty big deal. Loss of access to fishing and hunting habitat is regularly cited as the most pressing issue among sportsmen. So the addition of even one new access point is a step in the right direction. Five is a veritable godsend.
“Our objective overall was to conserve significant habitat, and we’ve done that by setting aside over four miles of riverfront and over 1,250 acres along the Colorado,” Eagle County Open Space Program director Toby Sprunk said.
Bombardier said much of the benefits depend on the river’s mood, which can run from mild to murky.
“That’s the thing with the Colorado. It’s such a roll of the dice,” Bombardier said of his home river’s propensity toward a crimson tide at the first trace of rain atop Catamount, Red Dirt or a handful of other sandy washes bleeding into the main stem.