Colorado Parks and Wildlife and BlueTriton Brands officially designated the Bighorn Springs State Wildlife Area near Nathrop on Friday, September 8.
“This state wildlife area is an excellent place to view birds of prey and monitor the local bighorn sheep population,” said Shawn Shepherd, CPW’s district wildlife manager for the area.
The Arkansas River Public Wildlife Viewing and Fishing Access Area is located on the former Ruby Mountain SWA and holds a 122-acre conservation easement granted by property owners BlueTriton.
“We appreciate BlueTriton Brands reaching out to us and proposing the conservation easement. This action will forever preserve the natural habitat,” Shepherd said. “It is important because it reinforces our open space conservation values.” “It also enhances recreational and educational opportunities for the public along a very popular river.”
The Bighorn Springs SWA project began 13 years ago, and CPW began the negotiation process in 2020.
“They put the entire property into a conservation easement, but we also have an access easement that allows the public to go fishing and see wildlife,” Shepherd said. “We combined two separate state wildlife areas into one larger area, and then added some additional access.”
Tam Pham, Senior Natural Resources Coordinator at BlueTriton, emphasized Shepherd’s commitment to protecting habitat through the new conservation easement.
“We are proud of this partnership opportunity with Colorado Parks and Wildlife,” Pham said. “Our commitment to sustainability and preserving the natural environment is well reflected in our work here at Bighorn Springs State Wildlife Area.”
With the addition of Friday’s dedication, there are now three public fishing access sites along the river at Bighorn Springs SWA, located south of Buena Vista in Chaffee County.
“It allowed access to the Arkansas River to be a little more enjoyable,” Shepherd said. “IT forever protects 122 acres. This area is one of the gateways to Browns Canyon National Monument.
Demand for access to the Arkansas River has increased since the pandemic struck, and its status as a gold medal fishery makes it a popular destination.
“It’s a draw, and people come from all over the world to fish this river,” Shepherd said.
Private access to Bighorn Springs is available to local schools and conservation organizations who wish to tour and study the property. Contact CPW or BlueTriton Brands for additional details.
Public access is only available from parking areas, viewing areas and designated trails.
Bighorn Springs SWA is designated for access to fishing and wildlife viewing. All other recreational activities are prohibited. To access Bighorn Springs SWA, you must possess and be in possession of a Colorado hunting or fishing license or a CPW State Wildlife Area Pass.