Parks and Recreation Areas
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Parks and Recreation Areas
Southwest Colorado includes a wealth of national and state parks and recreational areas. Of the 13 rivers designated as "gold medal" waters by the Colorado Wildlife Commission, the Animas, Gunnison, and Rio Grande are all here. Blue Mesa Reservoir, the state's largest lake, is a destination for boaters, kayakers, waterskiers, windsurfers, anglers, and scuba divers. Up in rustic Almont, a small community near the Gunnison headwaters, they live fly-fishing. Anglers love Ridgway State Park, with access to rainbow trout and other prize fish, and camping and hiking areas. Anyone older than 16 needs a Colorado fishing license, which you can obtain at local sporting-goods stores. See www.wildlife.state.co.us/fishing for more information.
The precipitous Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a mysterious and powerful attraction. Some of the most intact of what remains of the ancient, little-known Puebloan culture is inside Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
The San Juan Mountains stretch through 12,000 square mi of southwest Colorado, encompassing the Weminuche Wilderness Area, half a million acres along the Continental Divide administered by three federal agencies. The San Juan National Forest, which ranges from east of Pagosa Springs to the western border of the state, is a virtual paradise for all kinds of adventuring. The Colorado Trail, the premier backpacking experience in the state, goes north from near Durango to Denver, 500 mi away.
The Rio Grande National Forest stretches from the magisterial Sangre de Cristo Mountains across the San Luis Valley—at 7,600-feet elevation, the world's largest alpine valley—to the eastern San Juan Mountains on its western borders. It is less well known, but no less spectacular, than the rest of the area.
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