Silt Island Park boat launch area, parking lot expand |

Silt Island Park boat launch area, parking lot expand

John Bishop of Glenwood Springs, right, prepares to launch a boat at Silt Island Park on Saturday morning.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

The fishing is better than the parking at Silt Island Park — but that should soon change. 

Anglers typically park down the road due to the lot being full. New Castle resident John Harcourt has fished for Colorado River cutthroats since the 1950s, and he said this was a pretty common occurrence.

“It’s just become really, really popular that there’s no place to park,” he said Thursday. “It’s primarily people floating down from New Castle to Silt, then there’s some people floating Silt to Rifle.”

Silt Island Park is a densely-shaded green area surrounded by mountains south of the Colorado River. It has trails and a river access point that attract enough recreationists to routinely overflow the parking lot. 

But over the past two years, the city has partnered with the Middle Colorado Watershed Council to complete an expansion of the park’s parking lot and its boat launch area.

People prepare to launch a boat into the Colorado River at Silt Island Park on Saturday morning.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

The watershed council facilitated $46,153 in grants, with the city kicking in $8,000 from their own budget and providing labor. The funds paid for engineering and consulting work from RiverRestoration and RB Civil Engineering of Carbondale.

Silt Public Works Director Trey Fonner said the expansion provides more truck and trailer parking. It also widens the access road to the boat ramp so vehicles can pass side by side and avoid meeting head on. Silt Sand and Gravel helped with the cost of adding road base. 

“It looks good,” Fonner said.

This stretch of the Colorado River in Garfield County boasts decent-sized trout, according to Harcourt’s experiences. 

  • Average length: 16-18 inches; 
  • Average weight: 1.5-3 pounds.

With the included lure of tributaries — the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers — Harcourt said there are about 150 commercial guides in this region alone. Outfitters from Evergreen, Silverthorne, Vail and Denver also bring clients to fly fish the Colorado River.

“It’s an incredible river to fish,” Harcourt said. “The fish size is substantially larger down on the Colorado, and people are realizing that now.”

The dawning realization comes in part from a surprising source: 2020’s Grizzly Creek Fire. Ensuing closures and increased water turbidity exacerbated by massive debris slides in 2021 washed many recreationists downstream. Middle Colorado Watershed Council Executive Director Paula Stepp said it was like the Grizzly Creek Fire led to “a discovery.”

“It was kind of like opening a door to see what was visible downstream,” she said.

Trucks and trailers parked at the newly expanded Silt Island Park.
Submitted/Jeff Layman

The migration of boaters is partly why the watershed council felt it was important to expand Silt Island Park.

“We felt we can accommodate all the recreationists there,” Stepp said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”

Silt Town Administrator Jeff Layman said previous overflows created safety hazards. Conditions were a lot more restricted and emergency responses more difficult. 

Parking spilled out onto County Road 311 every weekend, Layman said.

“Some fishermen and rafters may have avoided Silt because it wasn’t probably one of the most pleasant of experiences,” he said.

“We’d really thank Paula for her participation in this.”

Local anglers of the Western Slope have seen great changes to their waterways over the years. Harcourt, a man who teaches fly-fishing classes and whose son Dustin is a well-known guide in the area, used to see maybe two boats all day floating the Colorado. Just the other day he saw eight in a row, he said.

“It’s becoming a destination for more people,” he said. “But there’s plenty of river.”

A fisherman wades through the Colorado River near the boat launch at Silt Island Park on Saturday morning.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

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