Riverfest celebrates the Colorado River | VailDaily.com

Riverfest celebrates the Colorado River

Riverfest partygoers prepare to float a stretch of the Colorado River Saturday between Red Dirt Road and Colorado River Ranch in Eagle County north of Dotsero.
John LaConte | jlaconte@vaildaily.com |

EAGLE COUNTY — Defining our state in a party, the Eagle River Watershed Council’s Riverfest celebration treated guests to a float down the Colorado River, a barbecue, craft beers and bluegrass music.

So it’s no surprise it was sold out well ahead of Saturday’s event.

But for guys like Toby Sprunk, Eagle County’s open space director, the celebration wasn’t so much of a party, as a way to relax and reflect on the effort it took create the atmosphere so many were enjoying.

“This isn’t even our party,” Sprunk said with a laugh. “But the Eagle River Watershed Council’s goals align so closely with ours, we thought we’d piggyback on their event.”

Specifically, the Watershed Council was celebrating a new boat launch just south of Colorado River Ranch on open space land along the Colorado River, set to be open some time next month. But generally, the Watershed Council, Eagle County Open Space, Eagle Valley Land Trust and a host of other entities were celebrating the five-mile stretch of river that leads to the boat launch, and the fact that, that stretch of river is now protected by open space.

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The party took place at Colorado River Ranch, about 12 miles north of Dotsero, but really began five miles up the road at Red Dirt Creek on the Colorado River.

A popular float is born

Both the Red Dirt Creek Road and the Colorado River Ranch properties were recently acquired by Eagle County Open Space as conservation easements, and with the county’s installation of a new boat launch on the Colorado River Ranch property, a popular float was likely born out of Saturday’s event.

“It creates an opportunity to have two new routes, a five-mile and a seven-mile route, out of one 12-mile route that was just too long for most folks to enjoy in a day,” said Sprunk.

Rafters at Lakota Guides, who sponsored the floating portion of the trip, were excited about the new floating opportunity.

“It’s great to see Eagle County’s love for rivers,” said John Mark Seelig, of Lakota Guides. “That’s why everyone today is out here … These groups help sustain our ecosystem, and they listen to our concerns.”

But the recreation opportunity Eagle County has created through the new boat launch is only one part of a larger goal to try to keep everyone who may use the land satisfied with the acquisition.

“We spent a lot of money,” Sprunk said of the roughly $8 million it took to complete the deal. “But it’s working for everybody. Recreation people like the fact they can use the river and the new boat launch, hunters like that it’s preserving the elk habitat, conservationists like the fact that the land won’t ever be developed in the future, scientists like the folks at CSU can study the land and water to see what’s happening to the Colorado in Eagle County, the ranchers who have been here forever are satisfied that they will continue to have their ranches as they have always had.”

“And you can enjoy a piece of beef from the Colorado River Ranch. When the health-conscious folks we have here in Eagle County get wind of how good this grass-fed beef is, they’re going to love this deal too,” Sprunk added.

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