As of the publication date of this plan, LoVa has assembled and maintains a comprehensive database of jurisdictions, public agencies, property owners, businesses, recreational and environmental groups and other stakeholders in the process. The database contains location, contacts, and information about the interests, aspirations and concerns of those that participated in the planning process.
Planning Factors and Benefits
Planning factors are
discussed below and documented and updated on a GIS (Geographic
Information System) digital mapping system maintained by LOVA Trails
and at the Garfield County Information Technology Department.
The following plan benefit objectives were considered in evaluating planning factors (see also Guiding Principles and Definitions in the Introduction).
Trails and Recreation
Multi-Use Trail (walking, equestrian, bicycling, wheelchair, roller-skating, running
Loop Trails and Connections (multi-use and pedestrian)
Access Points and Way Stations
Fishing and Hunting
Interface with Developed Lands
Agriculture and Ranching
Industrial and Mineral Extraction
Open Space, Views and Vistas
Wildlife Habitat and Movement, Plant Life
River, Streams and Wetlands
Key Determining Factors
Along with the benefit objectives there are a number of geographical, cultural and jurisdictional considerations that shape the planning process. Taken together, these factors provide a "filter" for realistic planning. This process helps identify potential trail passageways and barriers as well as other conservation opportunities. While there are literally hundreds of potential planning factors, the following are key considerations:
Access Points and Potential Non-Motorized Travel
Patterns-Considers likely routes of travel, trip origin and
destination points, potential way-stations (such as convenience
stores), trail use conditions such as grades and climate factors
and logical connections for trails and bike routes.
Characteristics-Includes topography, landforms, waterways,
lakes, ponds, aquifer recharge areas, soils and vegetation
characteristics that determine opportunities and constraints for
trail development and other benefit objectives.
Opportunity-Offers strong potential for trail routing or
on-street bicycle route.
Ownership-Includes privately and publicly held parcels.
Ownership is key in determining potential rights-of-way for
trails and locations for trailheads and access points. Much of
the corridor is in private ownership though the bulk of the land
abutting the river is in large parcels or in highway or rail
right of way. Potential conflicts such as trail use with
livestock are considered.
and Planning-Addresses current, anticipated and planned patterns
of land development such as new subdivisions, industrial and
commercial uses with an emphasis on areas subject to development
the 100-year floodplain and floodway channel of the river.
lands that have been identified as having value for plants and
Hunting and Fishing
Areas-Existing and potential areas of interest to anglers and
hunters that may conflict with trail use.
Highways, Roads and
Streets-Offers opportunities both for trail and on-street bike
routes as well as potential barriers to trail traffic.
and Ditches-Includes active, abandoned and potential future
routes that may offer either opportunities or constraints to
trail and recreational uses.
Gas and Oil Fields-Includes existing, planned and potential
mineral extraction areas for gravel, coal, oil and gas or other
Resources-Views and vistas important to the character of the
Archaeological & Cultural Resources-Includes points of special
interest, interpretive/educational opportunities, and local
cultural value. Also includes schools and outdoor school
facilities such as playfields and nature study areas.
Recreational Amenities-Includes existing and currently planned
parks, open spaces, trails, recreation centers and golf courses.
both regional and microclimate factors such as temperature,
snowfall, rainfall, sun and shade.
Environments-Includes wildfire zones, watersheds, slope hazards,
flashflood hazards, rapids, unsuitable soils, contaminated
areas, high security areas, noisy areas, potential crime areas,
and other site sensitive considerations for trail and
Other Factors-Includes other site-specific identified opportunities and constraints.
Elevation and Grades
Grades along the river corridor tend to be gentle with elevation dropping steadily from a high of 5700' in Glenwood Springs to 5100' in Parachute with an average grade of less than ½ percent that is barely perceptible in most places. Conversely, terrain ascends relatively steeply to the north and south except for the tributary creek corridors.
The study corridor has significant acreage in the 100-year floodplain. Between Glenwood Springs and New Castle, the floodplain is largely channelized and contained by I-70 and the Union Pacific Railroad corridor. West of New Castle the floodplain is wide (up to a mile in places) and the channel retains much of its natural meandering character. Floodplain land is significant because of its values for wildlife, its lush riparian vegetation, fishing and waterfowl hunting opportunities, water table recharge, wetland values, gravel extraction and a limited potential for urban development. It is considered valuable for agricultural uses, parks and trails use, hunting, and conservation purposes. Trails planning, however, should avoid hydrologically sensitive areas where the river channel is likely to move and wash out the trail or related improvements.
Water quality and watershed health along the entire length of the river is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Index of Watershed Indicators" as "better quality" with "low vulnerability" except for risks from population growth and agricultural activities. The river is rated by the Colorado Department of Heath and Environment as a Recreational Class IA Stream, meaning suitable for boating and full body contact. There is, however, some concern about build-ups of selenium and iron in the river. Maintaining the Class IA standard for the tributary streams has also been a topic of review and discussion.
From Glenwood Springs to just above New Castle, the river is largely contained by steep canyon walls, I-70 and the Union Pacific mainline. Annual mean stream flow runs between 1600 and 6400 cubic feet per second. The river gradient drops approximately 19 feet per mile in this reach and is considered intermediate-advanced level for boating due to several short rapids-the most difficult of which is at South Canyon Creek. Boating may be less difficult during lower water levels. A number of commercial rafting companies operate along this stretch of the river. This portion of the river supports a trout fishery (Glenwood Springs To Rifle).
Just above New Castle, the river becomes gentle and meanders through a wide valley before entering DeBeque Canyon downstream of the Garfield County line. The river morphology has created a number of islands with stands of cottonwood, willow and box elder. Paddling conditions are considered mild and suitable for open canoes with the challenges of some ledges and riffle areas, possible deadfalls and other human-made and natural obstructions. The reach below Rifle is a "warm water fishery".
By and large, the important habitat lands along the corridor are one and the same as the floodplain. While no federally listed threatened or endangered species have been identified, the corridor itself is significant because of its habitat richness. There is concern about the potential adverse impacts of the growing encroachment of human activities.
For planning purposes
the study corridor is divided into three segments. These segments
represent changes in the physical character of the corridor as well
as logical reaches for trail planning and development.
Segment 1: The "Canyon" (Glenwood Springs to New Castle, Length--13 Miles)
The "Canyon" segment of the corridor extends from the confluence with the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs to the opening in the Grand Hogback just west of New Castle. A relatively narrow canyon with steep walls characterizes most of this area. With the exception of the urban areas of Glenwood Springs (pop. 7,700) and New Castle (pop. 1,984), the rights-of-way of the Union Pacific Railroad, I-70 and Highway 6 occupy most of the usable land in the eastern portion of the corridor. The western end of this segment has meadowlands along the river much of which is in agricultural use but slated for residential development on current planning maps. Major tributary creeks include: Elk, Oasis, Mitchell, South Canyon and Canyon Creeks. A major network of national forest trails intersects the river corridor via the Canyon Creek corridor. The grade of the potential trail corridor is gentle. The paddling level of this reach is rated as intermediate (advanced during high flows). The table below summarizes key planning factors.
There are several strong reasons for pursuing trail construction expeditiously in this segment. These include: significant population; the opportunity to link to and continue the existing Glenwood Canyon and Roaring Forks Trails; recreational destinations such as Two Rivers Park, South Canyon and Canyon Creek and parks in New Castle; potential use of CDOT right-of-way and potential CDOT funding. The canyon is scenic but there are adverse visual and noise impacts from the railroad and highway. There are opportunities to work with the Riverbend Subdivision and other landowners at the west end to accommodate trail and riverbank conservation. The plan should identify and enhance public access points/trailheads at New Castle (I-70 Exit 105), Canyon Creek (I-70 Exit 109), South Canyon (I-70 Exit 111) and in Glenwood Springs. The plan should consider trail/greenway links to New Castle and other destinations to the north via Elk and Canyon Creeks. At the eastern end, Two Rivers Park is a logical trailhead. The existing trail/sidewalk segment from the Park to West Glenwood along Devereaux Road needs upgrading to meet multi-use trail standards.
Segment 2: The
"Valley" (New Castle to Rifle, Length-15 Miles)
The "Valley" segment of the corridor extends from the opening in the Grand Hogback (at Elk Creek in New Castle) to the confluence of Rifle Creek in Rifle. Along this stretch, the valley opens up and the river creates a broad flood plain up to a mile wide in places. The "Valley" offers broad views with snowcapped peaks in the distance, verdant farm and ranchlands. Silt (pop. 1750) and Rifle (pop. 5000) are the two major urban settlements. There are significant gravel resources in this segment and gravel mining and concrete production occur along the river. There are also numerous oil and gas wells within sight of the river. With its close access to Glenwood Springs and likely growth of energy and mineral extraction, this area will likely continue to grow and develop with increasing pressure on the river valley. Major tributary creeks and waterways include: Alkali, Garfield, Divide, Dry Hollow, Mamm, Dry, and Rifle Creeks. A number of irrigation ditches also run through the lands north of Rifle and Silt. The grade of the potential trail corridor is gentle. The paddling level of this reach is rated as "Class I and Class II"-the easiest levels. Fishing gradually changes from trout stream to warm water fishing. The accompanying tables below summarize key planning factors.
This segment of the river offers important conservation values and opportunities to preserve both wildlife values and agriculture. The natural-appearing and wooded segments of the river are also an important part of the valley's visual heritage. The major tributary creeks-especially Elk and Rifle Creeks-are also important recreational and scenic resources worthy of preservation and enhancement. The potential to create a scenic loop linking New Castle, Harvey Gap, and Rifle Gap and Rifle should be considered.
Alignment of the trail system through this segment poses some challenges. Portions of the riverbank are inaccessible due to development and privacy concerns on the part of some residents. The more natural state of the river channel and flood plain also suggests the likelihood of bank erosion in places so it may be necessary and appropriate to set the trail back and away from the bank. Comments at public meetings indicate an interest in local river access and loop trails providing recreation opportunities for people in the immediate area. An interest in having a "braided" system of different types of trails such as mountain bike and equestrian routes has been suggested. Additionally segments of trail and riverfront public open spaces could be incorporated into future mixed-use development along the river corridor.
The system of service roads and local county roads in the area may present the opportunity in the interim for on-street bicycling although these corridors may have heavier traffic as the area develops. The on-street segments may be situated to link together local loop trails providing a modicum of through trail movement.
This reach of the river could be enhanced for novice paddling and water recreation, provided suitable access points can be established and security and privacy concerns on the part of landowners can be addressed. Conflicts with hunters during season should be addressed as well.
An important challenge will be to work with river valley property owners to conserve floodplain and riparian values in the face of increasing development, mineral extraction, energy resources development and other activities that will impact the river and adjacent lands.
Plans for New Castle, Silt and Rifle indicate riverfront parks, open spaces, and trail links along their respective reaches of riverfront. Additionally the proposed Stillwater development includes trails and trail access to the central part of Silt.
Segment 3: The Mesas (Rifle to Garfield County Line, Length-24 Miles )
The "Mesas" segment of the corridor extends from the confluence with Rifle Creek in Rifle to Parachute and then onto the Mesa County line near DeBeque. The river corridor remains wide with a number of islands. The terrain to the north is arid and steep with the striking Roan Cliffs creating a dramatic visual rampart. Parachute (pop. 700) and adjacent Battlement Mesa (pop. 1600) are the major population centers in this otherwise rural reach. The mountains and mesas (including Battlement Mesa) of the national forest define the southern edge of the corridor.
Like the reach upstream, there are also numerous oil and gas wells within sight of the river. Along the south bank of the river the terrain rises steeply and the land is in private ownership. County Roads 320 and 309 provide the primary public access on the south. These roads are scenic but there are steep hills and much of the road surface is rough suggesting use by all-terrain bikes only. The Union Pacific Railroad mainline runs between the river and I-70 most of the length of this reach. Major tributary creeks and waterways include: Rifle, Battlement, Beaver, Porcupine, Spruce, Cache, Cottonwood, Parachute, Dry, Pete, Bill, Spring, and Wallace Creeks, Monument and Kelly Gulches, as well as a number of dry washes draining into the Colorado River. Most of the Roan Cliff area to the north is part of the Naval Oil Shale Reserve. The paddling level of this reach is rated as "Class I and Class II"-the easiest levels. It is a warm water fishery. The following table summarizes key planning factors.
This segment of the river also offers important conservation values and opportunities to preserve wildlife values, agriculture and scenery. The dramatic Roan Cliffs to the north are a distinct visual feature. There may be opportunities to create significant trail corridors, loops and links to neighborhoods in both the Parachute and Rifle areas. There appears to be strong community support in those communities to complete riverfront park, open space and trail improvements.
Portions of Hwy 6, especially west of Parachute, may be suitable for interim bicycle use as well as segments of service roads parallel to I-70 between Parachute and Rifle. Unfortunately, the shoulder widths of Hwy 6 and the surfaces of the other service road segments are not consistently suitable.
Due to traffic volumes on Hwy 6 west of Rifle, it would be more desirable to build an off-street trail along the river corridor running west from Rifle. There is also serviceable gravel road running along the north bank of the river near the large bend in the river west of Rifle that could be an ideal trail corridor in the future if conflicts with gas well service vehicles can be addressed.
The Colorado River corridor is a unique natural, scenic and cultural asset important in shaping the character of the valley. There are immediate opportunities to conserve open space and create riverfront parks and trail facilities in each of the cities along the corridor; as reflected in each community's comprehensive plans. There are also opportunities to conserve river habitat and rural open space along the river corridor between the communities. Preserving the character of these areas appears to be important to many landowners, farmers and ranchers as well as hunters and conservationists.
In the shorter term, there are opportunities to link communities with on-street bicycle and scenic routes, connecting trail segments in and near the cities. Longer term it may be possible to create a continuous non-motorized trail along the entire length of the river through Garfield County, but this must be done in such a way that does not adversely impact adjacent property owners, hunters and other existing riverfront interests. There are also a number of existing and potential access points conveniently located along the river for recreational access including fishing, boating and other uses. Fiscal impacts and potential financial benefits should be carefully considered in any trail corridor planning and development.
Finally, in the face of growing development pressures in the valley, there are opportunities to work with landowners, mining companies, hunters and public agencies to protect, restore and enhance the character of the river, its banks and associated riparian areas
50-Mile river corridor with varied land uses
Excellent climate and grades for recreational uses
A number of factors and local conditions filter the planning process
Garfield County population is 45,000 and growing at 4% per year
Floodplain lands are an
important resource along
In the short term, there are opportunities to link
communities together with
on-street bicycle and scenic
routes connecting trail
segments in and near the cities
Opportunities to work with landowners, mining companies, hunters and public agencies to protect, restore and enhance the character of the corridor through cooperative effort
Lower Valley Trails Group
144 E. 3rd St.
Rifle, CO 81650