2019 South Park: Season Premiere

Did you catch the season premiere of South Park?

Tubing it up on Spinney Mountain Res for big Bows and Brown's!
Tubing it up on Spinney Mountain Res for big Bows and Brown’s!

No, I am not talking about the cartoon! I am talking about the best place to fish for trophy trout (arguably) in Colorado. It was only a couple of days ago, on the 27th of April, that we saw the opening day at Spinney Mountain Reservoir for the 2019 season. Today May 1st, the south boat ramp at Antero Reservoir opens up – with the north boat ramp following suit a couple weeks later on May 25th. Last but not least, we also saw Eleven Mile Reservoir open up for boating on the 29th of April. So officially, the 2019 South Park season is well underway!

With that in mind and before you head out the door to go fishing in search of that next giant Rainbow Trout, pig Brown Trout, or next monster Northern Pike, have you ever been just a little curious about your favorite place to fish? Its history, development, and other features? If so, stick around and read on to find out a little more about South Park, Colorado.

South Park, Colorado is a high-altitude basin of approximately 1,000 square miles, creating a mosaic of grasslands, alpine meadows, snow capped peaks, Pine and Aspen forests, and streams, rivers, lakes and reservoirs (it is the headwaters of the South Platte River). The communities of Fairplay, Alma, Como, Jefferson, Hartsel, and Tarryall all sit within this basin and are located in present-day Park County, Colorado. Additionally, South Park is also home to an extensive water works system of canals, water impoundments, and tunnels that help facilitate the Denver metro area with its water supply needs.

South Park is located roughly 60 miles southwest of Denver (Campbell, 2014) within the rugged Rocky Mountains and was originally inhabited by Ute Indian Tribes for hunting and spiritual purposes (McBeth, 2007). In the late 1850’s, hunters, trappers and gold miners settled this region because of its high wildlife and mineral resource content (Colorado.com staff writer, 2014). 

Fly fishing on Spinney Mountain Res
Taking in the view of the South Park Basin in the background. Fly fishing from a float tube and pontoon can be tiresome.

As Colorado and the rest of the western United States were settled into the late 1800’s, South Park was uniquely recognized for its natural beauty and recreational opportunities. Mountaineering, Elk hunting, fishing, ice climbing, hiking, and snowshoeing were all very popular forms of recreation during the 1860’s. At the time, Territorial Governor A.C. Hunt, on numerous occasions, was well known for inviting dignitaries to participate in outdoor recreation when visiting the area (SPNHA, 2014).

Historically, the local economy of South Park was based almost entirely on irrigated agriculture and mining. Today however, while agriculture and mining still play their part, South Park relies heavily on natural resource recreation and tourism inputs as its main driver of economic growth – utilizing its vast amount of cultural, natural, recreational, and tourism resources.

Designated as a National Heritage Area in 2009 by the United States Congress due to the numerous historical sites and recreational opportunities – (historical ranches, mining camps, wilderness areas, state parks, national forests, gold medal fly fishing destinations, horseback riding, and Nordic skiing) – heritage, cultural, and recreational tourism have mostly replaced the traditional forms of economic activity. In addition, the service sector (hotels, lodging, restaurants, etc.) and construction industry also play a vital role in South Park’s economy (Clarion Associates of Colorado LLC, 2000).   

More recently, South Park has developed a reputation as a premier destination for trout fishing. Maybe well known to many reading this, or maybe not, fishing is one of the most popular forms of outdoor recreation in the United States (Ditton, Holland, and Anderson, 2011). Furthermore, in Colorado alone, sport-fishing accounts for more than $800 million dollars of economic impact and supports nearly 11,000 jobs annually (Kinsella, Spencer, and Farling, 2008).

Colorado is a premier destination for trout fishing and has the highest participation rate for trout fishing within the United States (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 2010). Likewise, South Park Colorado is considered the trout fishing capital of Colorado (Campbell, 2014), with over 50 miles of Gold Medal designated trout waters, and world-class stillwater fly fishing opportunities at Antero, Spinney Mountain Reservoir, and Eleven Mile Reservoir respectively (Smeltzer & O’Neill, 2011).

Floating on Spinney Mountain Res and spotting a springtime tornado forming!
Floating on Spinney Mountain Res and spotting a springtime tornado forming!

Consequently, wildlife-based recreation activities including fly fishing contribute more than $17,790,000 annually to the Park County economy (Smeltzer & O’Neill, 2011). With a population of a little more than 16,000 in South Park, wildlife-based recreation activities have a dramatic impact to the local economy and are seen as critically important to the future of South Park’s economic vitality (Smeltzer & O’Neill, 2011).

So, now that we all know a little bit more about the place we all love to fish, I think it is time to close the laptop, grab your fishing gear, and go fishing! Spring time is upon us and South Park is waiting! Go and take advantage of this amazing place! See you on the water!

*This post can also be seen at ColoradoFishExplorer.com


Campbell, M.J. (2014). Welcome to South Park, Colorado – The West Starts Here! Colorado
Info. Retrieved via http://www.coloradoinfo.com/southpark.

Clarion Associates of Colorado LLC, (2000). Demographic & Economic Reconnaissance
Report. The Park County Strategic Master Plan. Retrieved from

Colorado.com staff writer, (2014). The Real South Park in Colorado. Retrieved from

Ditton, R.B., Holland, S.M., & Anderson, D.K. (2011). Recreational Fishing as Tourism.
Fisheries. 27(3), 17-24. doi:10.1577/1548-8446(2002)027<0017: RFAT>2.0.CO;2.

Kinsella, S., Spencer, T., & Farling, B. (2008). The Impacts of Global Warming on Trout in the
Interior West. [Fact Sheet] Natural Resources Defense Council. Retrieved from

McBeth, S. (2007). Native American Oral History and Cultural Interpretation in Rocky
Mountain National Park. National Park Service, Rocky Mountain National Park,
Intermountain Region, Department of Interior, project # ROMO-R01-0064. Retrieved from

Smeltzer, J. & O’Neill, S. (2011). South Park Master Leasing Plan. Colorado Wildlife
Federation. Retrieved via

SPNHA, (2014). South Park National Heritage Area, Recreation. National Park Service.
Retrieved from http://www.southparkheritage.org/recreation.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (2010). Trout Fishing in 2006: A Demographic Description and
Economic Analysis: Addendum to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and
Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Harris, A. (Eds). (Report 2006-6). Retrieved via

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