A Scroll Down the Roaring Fork River, Part 1 Headwaters

Come Along

Take A

SCROLL

D O W N  T H E

Roaring Fork River

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p a r t  o n e

H E A D W A T E R S

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Part Two ABOVE ASPEN / Part Three ASPEN / Part Four BELOW ASPEN

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Hello and welcome to a scrolling tour of my current favorite river.

In recent weeks The Roaring Fork River has found itself making ripples in the local media by running not just ‘high’, but a full three times recent seasonal averages.

This is making everyone happy, and even homeowners perched along its banks don’t seem the least bit alarmed by the possible implications of it all. I mean, another few feet and swoosh.

But despite hiking miles of trail accompanying the gushing, bloated river I saw not the least signs of panic. No sandbagging. Not even the odd fire truck.

Nope, its just as if everyone and everything has combined to send a perfect gush of foamy, frothy icy cold spring water down along and through an impressive system of full-to-the-brim water sluices.

Hat’s off to all involved. Impressive water management indeed.

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“Segment one begins at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River and extends to where the stream gradient sharply increases (headwater transition) and the valley width decreases at the downstream end of a series of beaver ponds. When glaciers receded from the Sawatch Range, about twelve thousand years ago, they left a fairly flat Ushaped valley just below Independence Pass. On the steep slopes above this valley the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River are borne from snowmelt discharging into stream channels. Here a variety of riparian wetlands are linked by melting snow that feeds high-elevation seeps, slope wetlands and finally extensive willow carr riparian wetlands that cover the bottom of the valley. These lush riparian wetlands are fed both by snowmelt filtering down through upland soils and by overbanking flows during spring runoff. Native plants are lush and provide excellent habitat for breeding birds and mammals; dense willow thickets provide privacy, cover and protection from human intrusion during the sensitive reproductive time of year; willows are also an essential food resource for both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife such as ptarmigan and snowshoe hare. Canada lynx are currently using the Independence Pass area and evidence suggests that several breeding pairs may be there. At this high elevation stream segment, environmental conditions are severe and only a relatively few plant species are adapted to the rigorous circumstances presented by the climate. Although numerous animal species seek out these high elevation ecosystems for breeding habitat, few are adapted to live here yearlong. Mining activities in the late 1800’s dramatically altered the stream ecosystem and surrounding uplands. After 100 years, natural recovery, aided by human reforestation of the uplands in the 1920’s, has resulted in almost complete restoration of a functioning ecosystem.”

roaringfork.org

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And so, here we are staring at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River.

It is THE river of this neck of the woods, and runs 70 miles from its source – a small lake just beyond the rim to the top of the picture above, to the thermal spa town of Glenwood Springs where it joins and holds its own, nay outright bullies the legendary Colorado River.

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Roaring Fork River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately 70 miles (110 km) long, in west central Colorado in the United States. The river drains a populated and economically vital area of the Colorado Western Slope called the Roaring Fork Valley or Roaring Fork Watershed, which includes the resort city of Aspen and the resorts of Aspen/Snowmass.

It rises in the Sawatch Range in eastern Pitkin County, on the west side of Independence Pass on the continental divide. It flows northwest past Aspen, Woody Creek, and Snowmass. It receives the Fryingpan River at Basalt. 1.5 miles (2 km) below Carbondale, it receives the Crystal River from the south. It joins the Colorado in Glenwood Springs. The entire area that drains into the Roaring Fork River is known as the Roaring Fork Watershed. This area is 1,451 square miles (3,760 km2) and about the same size as the state of Rhode Island.

Wikipedia

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Each river around these parts lead the hiker into a vast drainage bowl the size and scale of which is quite difficult to comprehend given the lack of visable of human activity, past or present. Visitors, even during the height of a summer weekend such as this (Sunday 28 June), are few and far between, prompting pleasant and informative little interchanges when our paths do meet.

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Although extensively mined for a decade or two during the late nineteen hundreds this enormous glacial valley has essentially been left to repair ever since. It is indeed a vast, primitive and pristine corner of the planet.

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Kris and I embarked upon this little hike just this last Sunday (June 28), and while the small lake over the next ridge was indeed our original goal the sheer swampy-ness of the ground made for very heavy going. And so, should you (yes, you) decide to take this hike yourself then you’ll have the thrill of discovery of the actual source of the Roaring Fork River quite untainted by the probing eye of my camera. But for the rest of us this is where we go with the flow and follow its course down through its wild and rugged origins to the more sanguine stretches above and below Aspen, onto Woody Creek, and through the jaws of Snowmass Canyon.

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3:54 pm June 28

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The few fellow hikers we do encounter appear like tiny dots against such a mighty backdrop.

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Let’s go then… down hill, all the way.

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Looking up on either side we see swollen streams pouring from every divet in the ridge-line. It was a long winter this year, not much in the way of snow but a cool, wet spring loaded the mountain with huge reservoirs of fresh water that just recently came spilling out in cascading rivers and turbulent streams.

A perfect time for river watching!

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As the water barrels down its narrow channel the eye is rewarded by a panoply of marvelously sculpted rock, snow and vegetation.

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You’ll have to imagine the tremendous roar as the frothy water works itself into a frenzy, careening from rock to rock, during its steep unrelenting descent.

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No, not the riverbed but the path.

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5:20 pm June 28

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At the time of our hikes the river was running very high indeed… as are all rivers around these parts, three times the historic annual flow has been notched along practically the entire seventy mile route, and the people who know about these things predict another few weeks of record high water.

Of course there’s more to this than meets the eye. Currently there seems to be something of a war breaking out between the various water rights pertaining to the Front Range (meaning Denver) and what we call The Western Slope. The result being that for some strange reason many of the 14 tunnels diverting water across the continental divide are currently closed. I really have no idea just what is going on but from the Roaring Fork River’s point of view its Happy Days are Here Again! At least for a while… the mighty Roaring Fork IS actually living up to its ferocious name – as we will see over the coming posts.

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From headwaters to collision with the Colorado River the Roaring Fork River is running hard, filling its banks from rim to frothy rim… and staging a magnificent spectacle in the process.

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5:38 pm June 28

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And off she goes, down along her very own Roaring Fork Valley, on past the ghost town of Independence, the ex-mining mecca of Aspen, down through Woody Creek and onto Basalt and Carbondale before merging with the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs.

Our own little Scrolling Tour will most likely consist of three or four episodes and terminate at the northern end of Snowmass Canyon.

I hope you enjoyed your Scrolling Tour of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and will join me next time.

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and now, the slideshow….

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it will, eventually 

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Part Two ABOVE ASPEN / Part Three ASPEN / Part Four BELOW ASPEN

Author, Roaring Fork River, Headwaters, Lost Man Trail.

Thanks for visiting martincooney.com

I hope you’ll join me for the next leg of the journey – through the ghost town of Independence and onto Aspen.

But before you go…

Kris and I so enjoyed our little hike that I thought I would break with martincooney.com tradition and release a little behind the scenes playacting as we mugged for the camera… inspired, rejuvenated and reinvigorated no doubt driven slightly giddy by the grandeur and magnificence of our surroundings.

Believe me, silly as it looks, should you take this hike you’ll have a wonderful time too, and who knows just what mad, crazy thing you’ll get up to. You can find it on a map; look for the Lost Man Trailhead at the very top of Highway 82, just before it reaches the continental divide. Then follow the clearly marked trail to Lost Man Lake.

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what a world

GET OUT THERE !!!

End of A Scroll Down The Roaring Fork River, Part One: Headwaters

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Author, Roaring Fork River, Headwaters, Lost Man Trail.

Yours Truly… Bounding the Roaring Fork River with a SINGLE LEAP !

Μ å Γ † ¡ ∩

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