Whether it’s paddleboarding, rafting or fly fishing, here are three quintessential Aspen river experiences to try this summer.
SUP North Star Nature Preserve
Where the Roaring Fork River meanders through the 245-acre North Star Nature Preserve just upstream of Aspen, paddlers can experience a lush riparian ecosystem rich in wildlife and scenic beauty. The flatwater section from Wildwood Lane to Stillwater Bridge is a favorite of local and visiting stand-up paddlers. Local photographer and SUP maven Jordan Curet says the stretch never gets old. “It’s truly a wild space near Aspen where you can see an incredible slice of local wildlife,” says Curet. “It’s moving water, so you’re always seeing something new and different around each corner.” She paddles North Star early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid midday crowds and enjoy the area at its most tranquil. Hamilton Sports rents SUPs.
Fly Fish the Frying Pan
Sam Merrill, a fishing guide for Basalt’s Taylor Creek Fly Shop, says you’ll have a hard time finding a river with the diversity of insects and consistency of fish than the Frying Pan River. No wonder the river that flows from above Ruedi Reservoir to the Roaring Fork River in Basalt is designated as “Gold Medal Water,” meaning the water produces 60 pounds of trout per acre, and at least 12 14-inch or larger trout per acre. “The Frying Pan offers every type of insect a f ly fisherman needs to learn about,” says Merrill. “You’ll have a hard time finding another river that’s wadable with more fish per mile.” A half-day trip with Taylor Creek (location determined the night before based on water flows, bug activity and crowds) will teach beginners the basics of fly fishing, but also about the river and the valley. And no trip is complete without a post-fishing beer at Basalt’s riverside watering hole The Tipsy Trout.
Whitewater Raft the Roaring Fork
Elk Mountain Expeditions isn’t the largest whitewater rafting company in the valley, but it prides itself on running smaller group trips focused on quality. “Rafting puts all ages and abilities together in one boat, so families and groups can connect while sharing a fun and memorable experience and seeing more of the valley,” says Elk Mountain Expeditions manager Kira Vicenti. The company’s half-day rafting trips include the notorious Slaughterhouse section of the Roaring Fork River just below Aspen, a Class IV whitewater adventure for those willing to navigate granite boulder gardens and a small waterfall (must be 14 years or older). The Upper Roaring Fork run is a tamer yet entertaining section of Class III whitewater suitable for families just downstream. And for families with young children or adults who are seeking a mellow river trip with ripples instead of rapids, the Lower Roaring Fork serves up a mild river experience with beautiful scenery.