Exploring the Roan Plateau: Day Three

Conservationist blogger Hal Herring and photographer Kevin Cooley spent three days exploring what’s at stake in the current rush to develop the energy resources beneath Colorado’s unique Roan Plateau — some of the best big game hunting and trout fishing in the United States. Here’s what they found on day three.


The fishing in lower Trapper Creek yesterday was spectacular, and the place made me think hard about what we mean when we say a place is pristine, or remote, or a ‘wilderness.” Trapper is hard to get to, and so not a lot of people are fishing it, which is a good thing, because a man with a can of worms, no ethics and some circle hooks could clear it out in short order. The cliffs keep the cattle and sheep out, so the place looks pretty much like it has since the dawn of Creation – the long tunnels of willows keeping the water shady and cold, protecting the fish from predators. There’s no silt among the brightly colored gravels, no sounds but the rushing of the water through its bed of stone.

The cool air above Trapper swarms with bug hatches- caddis, mayflies, stoneflies, all those creatures of the air and water that are the true mark of healthy water. What must be the sheer weight of all those bugs, the amount of pure protein crawling and flying there, is astonishing, and it is why the cutthroats are so bright and feel so heavy in the hand. The Trapper Creek canyon holds a stillness and vibration of pure life that must be, in this time of diesel fumes, ipods, and endless concrete, among the rarest commodities on earth. Hard to get to. For the fisherman or hunter, these are magic words.

The only regret I had was that, because I couldn’t quit fishing for the cutthroats, we didn’t have time to hike down the creek to see where it fell off the edge of the Roan.

Corey Fisher and the gang told me we’d fish Parachute Creek next, which was a little bit bigger stream, and that we could bash our way through the willow thickets, wade between the sheer cliff faces, and actually reach the place where Parachute tumbled off into space. If we could leave the fishing long enough to start walking.

But the best laid plans also tumble away in spry and foam (and fire) when traveling in the backcountry. We did indeed bust thickets, and we did fish, but I’d not see Parachute Creek on this trip.

Click here for Hal’s report on the last day of this trip.