Towering mountains surround 3,201-acre Ridgway State Park south of Montrose in western Colorado. Mount Sneffels and a high ridge of alpine peaks loom to the south, while Chimney Peak and Courthouse Mountain guard the eastern horizon. Ridgway, a premier water sports park along U.S. 550, offers a marina, boat ramp, a campground with spacious sites, three yurts, a swim beach, 14 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and a visitor center. Fishermen love catching rainbow trout up to 20 inches long, kokanee salmon, perch, splake, and smallmouth bass, while boaters, paddleboarders, windsurfers, and water-skiers enjoy playing on the glistening five-mile-long, 1,030 acre reservoir.
- Did you forget to pack some essential gear? Don’t worry, the park has you covered. Ask a ranger or inquire at the visitor center to borrow a fishing pole and tackle (best for kids) and a Family Activity Backpack with journals, binoculars, magnifiers, guidebooks, and magnifying bug boxes. Info sheets with activities and fun facts help your family adventure.
- Bring the kids to educational programs on Saturday mornings at the visitor center or bring the whole family on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer. Call the park at 970-626-5822 for more information.
- Ridgway is a great spot to view wildlife. Over 140 species of birds are seen, including sandhill cranes, great blue herons, white-faced ibises, great horned owls, dippers, meadowlarks, and eagles. A bird list is available at the visitor center. Also look for big mammals like elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bears, and occasionally moose. Take a hike in the Dallas Creek area at the south end of the lake to see the most wildlife.
- Fishermen enjoy Ridgway’s lake. It’s regularly stocked with rainbow trout. Huge brown trout weighing more than 11 pounds are regularly caught and the park believes that state-record browns exceeding 30 pounds are in the lake. If smallmouth bass are your thing then catch away and keep them. The bass are an invasive species so there is no bag or size limit. You can also cast in the Uncompahgre River at Pa-Co-Chu-Puk, a fabulous catch-and-release area for fly fishing.
Recommended season(s): Year-round.
—Stewart M. Green