Feature article, cover story
Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail — Montrose to Ouray
[July 2019 | San Juan Silver Stage] By Kathryn R. Burke
THE UNCOMPAHGRE RIVERWAY TRAIL will eventually link Delta with Ouray, creating a 65-mile route along the Uncompahgre River in southwestern Colorado, open to bikers, hikers, everyday walkers, and—in some places, dogs and horses.
Currently, three segments have been completed, open to foot and bike traffic, and dogs (on leash) in most areas. A one-mile loop in the city of Ouray crosses to both sides of the river. The 7.8-mile Uncompahgre Riverwalk (some of it also open to horses) connects Ridgway to the Ridgway State Park via the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park. Portions of the trail, including long stretches of the completed sections, use a former Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad line.
Ridgway’s southern portion of the Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail follows the old Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad corridor, and begins at a restored railroad trestle just north of town. (An interesting note—climb down below to see the high water marks, a fascinating history of fast water from winter snowmelt!) Along the riverbanks, you will encounter signage from the railroad days, alerting you to how far it is to Denver!
On the river side of the trail, we found remnants of what is most likely the old town of Dallas. We discovered some very old locks, bits and pieces of china and glass, and parts of a blacksmith’s old forge complete with square-head nails. (To learn more about the historic old town, please see Resources for the Town for Dallas, below.)
RiverWay Trail follows the river to a small park with nice shade, restrooms, and picnic facilities. In low water, you can also see the point (at the river bend) where the early settlers forded the river in their stagecoaches.
The trail continues past the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park, 80 acres of permanent wildlife preserve which includes numerous mountain biking and hiking trails. (Related story.)
Continuing northward, the pathway traverses open fields and sagebrush, paralleling US 550. Passing a confluence of the Uncompahgre and Dallas Creek, the route takes you to the Ridgway State Park’s Dallas Creek area (map)—located at the southern end of the Ridgway Reservoir. Poking along the riverbanks at low water, we found old bottles and other remnants from earlier settlements, apparently washed downriver from earlier settlements, some may have even come from the town of Ouray.
At Dallas Creek, you will find restrooms, picnic areas, and prime fishing spots. A little further north is the Park Headquarters, well worth a stop to learn about area history and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the San Juan Mountains to the south.
If you’re planning on hanging out for a while, Ridgway State Park offers year-round modern camping, with full facilities during the high season (April-October); and campsites for RVs, trailers, campers, motor homes, and 25 remote, walk-in tent sites. Yurts are available year-round.
From the park, the trail is incomplete from the north end of the park to Colona, where a dirt frontage road picks it up again to Trout Road. From there, it passes the Ute Indian Museum, well worth a stop and a visit. As it continues past the museum, you are likely to see fishermen along its banks, a few brave souls in canoes, and flocks of ducks that congregate in its pools and easily manage the swift currents in spring (snowmelt) runoff.
The route continues north, past the new Montrose Recreation Center at the south end of Montrose, where it crosses the river twice as it passes through Ute Park, Montrose Water Sports Park, Riverbottom Park, and Cerise Park on its way to the northern end of Montrose, where it eventually joins the newly-completed, 2.5-mile, concrete, recreation trail ending just past Mayfly Outdoors.