Rio Grande - Float: Gold Medal Waters at South Fork

  • South Fork
  • Del Norte
  • Favorite Spot
Elevation: 8200
Access:
  • Car (4x4 not required)
Seasonal Accessability:
  • Late Spring/Summer/Fall
Water Type:
  • River
Driving Directions:

Directions to put-in: Travel six miles west of the town of South Fork toward Creede. Turn at the Lower Coller State Wildlife Area sign on the south side of Hwy 149. Directions to take-out: Travel three miles east of South Fork on Hwy 160 toward Del Norte. Turn left on County Road 19 across from Ute Bluff Lodge.

Restrictions: Must have Colorado Fishing License to fish. Fly/Lure Only; 2 Brown trout limit, minimum 16 inches; All rainbow trout must be released
Commonly Caught Species:
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brown Trout
Suggested Bait: Flies, Lure
Fishing Method:
  • Flyfishing
  • Float Fishing
  • Wading
Boat Type:
  • Non-motorized Boats Allowed
Description & Notes:

A trip through Gold Medal Waters: Lower Coller to Lower Alpine Take-Out

A good start to floating the river through South Fork is just past the western boundary fence at Masonic Park: a put-in for boats called Lower Coller. This is also a state designated Wildlife Area, so it’s likely you will catch a glimpse of a trophy elk or deer as they sip from the mighty Rio.

This adventure takes you through all the good stuff! After putting in at the public access of Lower Coller you will immediately find yourself floating onto private land belonging to the Mason's – view their “Masonic lodges” all along the Rio for about a mile. Strangely enough this is the only spot on the Rio Grande where it is legal to keep a rainbow trout - you conspiracy buffs can do the research to figure out why! All I know is that you can keep four trout, rainbow or brown, in accordance with state regulations, from here to the Hwy 149 bridge. The river is wide through this stretch, and the fishing is good right after run-off for stripping streamers. This is also one of the last floatable sections when the water gets low toward the end of season in July. The floats meanders through quaint neighborhoods of fishing cabins a few times but mostly enjoys quiet solitude with cottonwoods, aspens, spruce and pine trees dominating the mountain side. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad runs along the river and the kids sure enjoy waving to the folks on board and hearing the train give a whistle. Further downstream you will float through Elk Creek Ranch (also private), before reaching town. You can recognize it for the big grassy hay meadows that roll towards the hillside to the south of the river.

The hamlet of South Fork six miles down from the put-in is a oasis on the east side of the Continental Divide. Should you need a latte from the Feelin Good Cafe or a beer at the Shaft Bar this town will accommodate! As you float under the Hwy 149 bridge, you are officially in Gold Medal Waters. (See current fishing regulations for Gold Medal Waters, typically two browns over 16 inches and all rainbows returned to the river). Floating through downtown takes you past the beautiful Rio Grande Club and Golf Course, with some of Rio Grande county's most luxurious stay-and-play ammonites. Its in these waters that the big trout hang out – enjoying deep rock pools and slow moving water. I know guys that get off work and float just from Hwy 149 bridge to the Lower Alpine take-out in the evening to cast a fly at these hogs. Big drys or drifting with nymphs -- either way its great fishing every time. The float ends at Franke Excavation/County Road 19 with a small takeout located on the northeast side of the bridge.

I would also like to add that boats have always been able to put-in/take-out at the Hwy 149 bridge access, but lately someone has put up signs everywhere for no trespassing, no parking ect. And the nearest parking is a long ways away. The access is still available, but because of the parking situation you can basically only get dropped of there.

Photo Credits:

Photo by Kara Brittain • b4studio.com