We all know of the Arkansas River as the Mecca of whitewater rafting, but did you know it boasts another accolade? Anglers rejoice – the 102 mile stretch of river starting near Leadville to the Royal Gorge in Cañon City is Gold Medal Trout Water.
What is Gold Medal Trout Water?
Designated by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, Gold Medal Trout Water must be publicly accessible and produce at least 12 “quality” trout (14+ inches) in addition to 60 pounds of standing stock per acre. Offering just over 100 miles of some of the best fishing conditions, the Arkansas River is the longest stretch of Gold Medal water in the state of Colorado.
Unlike other iconic fishing rivers in Colorado, the Arkansas only recently earned its place in the Gold Medal club. Leadville’s early mining days took their toll on the Arkansas River contributing towards decades of damage. The designation as one of the best rivers for trophy trout fishing is the reward for years of combined effort on the behalf of state and federal agencies, volunteers, and the Arkansas River Valley community. As little as 20 years ago trout in the area experienced a limited lifespan of only 3 years due to the heavy metal contaminants from mining. Today’s trout thrive living beyond an age of 10 years and growing to a much larger, healthier size.
In addition to reviving the fishing scene, the conservation efforts have even further preserved the beauty found along the Arkansas River. These stretches of river are best appreciated while in a raft. Areas like Browns Canyon National Monument and the iconic Royal Gorge encompass this portion of the Arkansas River conveniently creating the ultimate combination: America’s finest fishing and adrenaline inducing class III-IV whitewater rafting.
While you aren’t able to fish off of our rafts (a special permit is required) our guides are happy to eddy out to those secret spots accessible only by raft. If you want to make the most of fishing opportunities, I invite you to look into our multiday trips. Since we camp right along the river, these trips allow anglers to take advantage of peak biting hours: dawn and dusk.
The Arkansas River has always held the spotlight as a whitewater rafting destination, but it is home to so much more. Gold Medal Trout Water brings fishing galore (both brownies and rainbow) to our favorite whitewater destinations giving even more opportunities for fun this summer.