Arkansas River makes Outside Online’s top 5 state parks
Summit Daily News
Out of more than 7,800 state parks around the country, which maintain about 44,000 miles of trail and 220,000 campsites, the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area made the top five in Outdoor Online’s recently released rankings.
In spring, as the days get longer and the sun creeps higher into the sky, warm water migrates up the Arkansas River and little bugs start to hatch, surfacing out of the water in a mysterious way. The river, the heartbeat of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Association, becomes frosted not with snow but with a multitude of white insects known as the caddis fly.
It’s a time that draws anglers from across the country to take advantage of the killer fly fishing aided by the clear waters of the high mountain river. The brown trout – which snap up various insects as they hatch – provide recreational fishing opportunities in the many eddies, ripples and deep pools carved out along the length of the river.
Later in the season, as snow starts winding its way from the upper mountain snowfields through the ravines and dumping into the cascading water, river runners begin flocking to the 152-mile ribbon of whitewater that ranges from Class II to V rapids and has areas of protected land along both banks.
Visitors on what’s known as the most commercially rafted stretch of river in the country overlook some of the rapids, like the Class IV Seidel’s Suckhole, and use words like, “It’s big;” “Fun. Exciting… A little scary;” “It’s pretty rad;” and “Power.”
The Arkansas River begins at the headwaters of the upper Arkansas in Leadville and winds through the Sawatch Mountains, ending in Pueblo. It drops 5,400 feet in elevation along the way.
The whitewater and fishing are the main attractants to the year-round Colorado destination. But the park also offers camping, picnicking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing and gold panning along the river’s shores, deep canyons, broad valleys and towering mountain peaks tucked in the upper Arkansas River valley.
Outside Online chose the parks because they rarely get recognition. Compared to 276 million national park visitors annually, 740 million people visited state parks and preserves in 2010.
“We are thrilled that Outside selected the AHRA as one of the top five state parks in the nation,” said Rob White, the park’s manager, in a press release.
“Everyone associated with the AHRA, the employees, the outfitting community and our dedicated volunteers work hard to ensure that the AHRA provides the highest quality experience for all of our visitors, including anglers and whitewater boaters.”
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