In the mid-1920s, Ed Budge set out on horseback toward the headwaters of the White River in northwest Colorado. He found the perfect spot to build his lodge and the U.S. Forest Service issued his first permit in 1928. Today, Budge’s Wilderness Lodge is a Colorado-owned business, operated by a fantastic team of dedicated managers, guides, wranglers and staff. But more than just the folks who work here, Budge’s is a sum of the families and individuals who have been coming to stay here for decades. It’s a historic Colorado business, with roots that go back generations.
Budge’s Wilderness Lodge is nestled against the boundary of the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. In fact, we’re at the very end of the road, surrounded by Wilderness on three sides. Designated Wilderness means protecting the primitive and wild nature of the area. Inside the wilderness boundary, no motorized use or bicycles are allowed. Travel is by foot and horseback only.
Guests enjoy staying in the original 1920s log cabins and gathering for meals in the main lodge. From here, we strike out on horseback each day to explore the headwaters of the White River. Those feeling more adventurous can choose to stay in a remote wilderness camp. We have wilderness camps available on the river and on high alpine lakes. These camps are equipped with roomy wall tents and we provide a dedicated cook to take care of you during your stay.
What we do
Budge’s Wilderness Lodge provides fly fishing adventures to some of Colorado’s most remote and productive high alpine waters. The Flat Tops Wilderness is home to hundreds of miles of trout streams and more than 100 alpine lakes, only accessible by foot or horseback.
Whether you stay in one of the historic cabins at the main lodge, or strike off for a remote wilderness camp, you’ll have the opportunity to experience some of the best backcountry fly fishing in Colorado. With a permitted area of over 150 square miles, there’s more water than you could possibly fish on a single trip.
The main lodge sits at the end of the road – literally. We are surrounded by Wilderness on three sides. From the lodge, the river takes off into the wilderness both upstream and downstream, ranging anywhere from 25 to 50 feet wide – a sizable stream by Colorado wilderness standards. The river is home to Colorado River cutthroat, brook trout, rainbows and cuttbow hybrids. Meanwhile, the top of the Flat Tops plateau is dotted with alpine lakes. These lakes may contain cutthroat, brook trout or even lake trout, depending on the location.
All of our fly fishing packages include meals, accommodations and horseback access into the wilderness area.
Where we do it
The Flat Tops is Colorado’s second-largest designated Wilderness Area, encompassing 235,214 acres. That’s about 370 square miles of wild country and wildlife habitat. Outside the designated Wilderness boundary are thousands more acres of National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. These Federally Managed public lands, including the Wilderness, belong to all U.S. citizens. This is all a part of YOUR grand western estate!
Geologically, the Flat Tops is very unique compared to the rest of Colorado. Most obviously, these mountains are flat. Several periods of ancient geologic uplift followed by periods of volcanic activity formed a hard basalt cap. Subsequently, glacial activity scoured the tops and carved large U-shaped valleys. This eventually created the area’s iconic appearance with its deep valleys, towering cliffs and flat tops dotted with hundreds of lakes and ponds. While much of Colorado is arid, reflecting the high desert climate, the Flat Tops is surprisingly full of water. In large part, this is what creates such productive fish and wildlife habitat.
For centuries, the Flat Tops was home to the Ute people, of the Yampa and Parianuche bands. As the area and its resources attracted more settlers, it became a hot spot during the infamous range wars and sheep wars. Some of the area’s historic ranching families still graze their sheep in these mountains. In 1919 a U.S. Forest Service landscape architect named Arthur Carhart was sent to the Flat Tops to assess development possibilities. He was so impressed by what he saw, he returned to his superiors at the Forest Service and urged them to leave the area undeveloped. The Flat Tops and Carhart’s advocacy inspired the idea of wilderness on public lands. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law, and in 1975 Congress designated the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
The headwaters of the White River, its many creeks and tributaries, as well as the scores of lakes that surround the area, provide a unique opportunity for fly fishing adventure. No matter how many times you come back, there’s always more to explore. That’s one of the many reasons why Budge’s Wilderness Lodge has such a long legacy of repeat guests.
|Ryan McSparran <email@example.com>