Flowing through the center of Chaffee County, the Arkansas River is one of the four major drainages that flow out of Colorado. It’s also one of the most popular. The river, fed by snowmelt, runs a bit later than other rivers, but provides a longer season of recreating. It is responsible for an economic boost during the summer months.

Fishing is extremely popular and very productive. Fishing usually picks up in March and last until mid May when the snowpack starts to melt. Once high water is over and the majority of snow in the high country melts, the fishing picks back up. The Arkansas was recently bestowed a Gold Medal fishery designation. Fishing from the bank, wading, or from a raft are all great ways to enjoy this hobby.

Three distinct sections of the river provide thrills for the thousands of guests each season on commercially guided trips. The Numbers section above Buena Vista is a continuous class four for maximum thrills. Browns Canyon, between Buena Vista and Salida, is a mostly class three section within the newly appointed National Monument. Downstream from Salida is the Royal Gorge with towering walls and challenging rapids.

Kurt Glaser with Riverboat Works says it best, “We are pretty fortunate to have the Arkansas River here in the valley.”


Hiking & Backpacking

In Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado

Rimmed by the mighty Sawatch, Mosquito and Sangre de Cristo mountains, Chaffee County is a breathtaking place to get outdoors. Like sentinels lining the horizon to the west, Sawatch peaks dominate the Upper Arkansas Valley. Running some 100 miles, from south of Salida to north of Leadville, 15 of Colorado’s 58 14,000-foot peaks rise in the Sawatch. The range features four of the state’s five tallest peaks including Mount Elbert, at 14,440 feet the state’s highest and second only to California’s14,505-foot Mount Whitney in the lower 48. The Collegiate Peaks – five mountains named after colleges – are included in the Sawatch.


Surrounding The Arkansas River Valley


Sawatch Mountain Range

Running from north of Leadville to southwest of Salida, the Sawatch Range consists of 15 peaks of 14,000 feet or more including Mt. Elbert, at 14,440 feet the highest in Colorado and second highest in the lower 48 states. The Collegiate Peaks, named after five famous universities, are a part of the range.


Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range

Running south from Poncha Springs to Santa Fe, New Mexico. This portion of the Rocky Mountains is the southernmost subrange.
A wilderness area and multiple 14,000-foot peaks are located here, as well as the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.


Mosquito Mountain Range

Alpine tundra, adjoining forests and rare plant species are found in this area northeast of Buena Vista. The Mosquito Range features five fourteeers: Lincoln, Bross, Democrat, Cameron and Sherman. It is also home to the highest vehicle route in the country, Mosquito Pass, cresting at 13,185 feet.