Dolores River


The Dolores River tumbles from the top of Lizard Head Pass above the town of Rico, down the valley through lush meadows and unique high-country aspen slopes, to the town of Dolores and into McPhee reservoir.  Along the way it is joined by the West Fork of the Dolores, which flows past the historic town site of Dunton, as well as numerous tributaries holding native Cutthroat trout.  As it leaves McPhee Reservoir, it flows through stunning red rock canyons filled with Ponderosa groves and desert Bighorn Sheep on it’s way to join the Colorado River

With great fishing on the main stem and tributary streams, as well as a challenging tailwater fishery below McPhee dam, the Dolores River basin is a fantastic western angling destination.  Add in incredible hunting opportunities, ready access to the spectacular surrounding San Juan Mountains, a multitude of working ranches and farms and vibrant communities, and it’s not hard to see why the Dolores Basin is truly a one of a kind place.

Legacy mine pollution and the steady pace of development and population growth threaten the outstanding resources here. With efforts underway to address mine waste, promote collaborative and sustainable resource planning, and protect and improve habitat, TU is committed to ensuring the Dolores River can be enjoyed for generations to come.


Trout Unlimited addresses all aspects of protecting and restoring the Dolores watershed.

-We are working to maintain watershed health through multiple public lands planning processes, including ensuring oil and gas development and off road vehicle use do not harm fisheries. 

-Mine drainage and tailings issues are being inventoried and cleanup projects identified.  We hope to begin on the ground remediation in 2014 and are currently monitoring the EPA mandated cleanup of the worst draining mine in the basin.

-We work with private landowners and the Forest Service to complete restoration projects and look for ways to reconnect habitat and improve stream flows.  This includes partnerships with irrigators to improve and reconnect habitat through infrastructure and dam improvements as well as helping restore degraded high country stream habitat. 

-Long-term protection of these resources is critical. Through partnerships and outreach, TU works to build community knowledge and investment in the ecological, recreational, and financial importance of this amazing landscape to ensure it will be protected in perpetuity.


-Successfully attained Colorado Outstanding Waters designations on three tributaries containing pure populations of Cutthroat Trout.  This protects water quality and helps ensure the survival of these key populations. 

-Completed our first restoration project on the Dolores that reconnected side channel rearing habitat and improved habitat.

Staff Contact

Matt Clark

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Author of this Page

Joshua Duplechian

Dolores River
Bear Creek
Taylor Creek
Spring Creek
Fish Creek
Rio Lado
Roaring Fork
West Fork
Lizard Head
San Juan Mountains
Mesa Verde

Colorado River Cutthroat Trout

Eastern Brook Trout

Brook Trout

Lake Trout

Lake Trout

Wild Rainbow Trout

Wild Rainbow Trout

Wild Brown Trout

Wild Brown Trout

Climate Change
Invasive Species
Oil + Gas Drilling
Roads + Development
Risks to Fishing 

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