- The San Miguel is a free flowing river that originates high in the San Juan mountains above Telluride. This river is in mostly natural and underdeveloped settings. There are 50 miles of good fishing water and plenty of opportunities for whitewater sport.
Recreation - Set in a narrow, steep, red rock canyon the river gradient drops about 50 feet per mile. This makes for some challenging wading. There are 50 miles of good fly fishing waters, including the South Fork, that are in relatively undisturbed areas. Over 90 percent of the river and its tributaries are accessible and public water. County Road 145 runs along the river and provides access to it.
The San Miguel is a noteworthy river, from a fly fishing perspective, because of its unsophisticated fish, which is a hard thing to find in this day. Successful tactics here can be basic, using nymphs or dries.
There are brook trout in the upper river and creeks and, in the main river, some reproducing cutthroat, brown, rainbow and cutbows. The San Miguel fishes quite well March to early May before runoff. The most popular season is when flows drop below 300 c.f.s. which can be from mid-June to mid-July into November.
This is a beautiful yet not well-known river run for boaters. The first stretch of the river to the Norwood Bridge is paralleled by Colorado Highway 145 which allows easy scouting of the potentially difficult rapids. This scenic canyon is lined with piñon-juniper, spruce, Douglas fir and riparian vegetation. The stretch from Norwood Bridge to Piñon flows through a remote ponderosa gorge dense with riparian vegetation and then opens up into a shallow, scenic, sandstone canyon. The lower San Miguel winds through red sandstone cliffs with numerous remnants of the areas historic mining days.
Climate - The San Miguel River is situated in high mountainous altitudes. Persons coming from lower elevations should be aware that time is needed to adjust to the higher elevations.
Warm days and cool to freezing nights can be expected in the mountains during the summer. July and August are usually the warmest months. During this time afternoon thunderstorms are common. Be prepared for both warm and chilly weather, as well as for rain showers.
Being at high elevation and fueled mainly by melting snow, the San Miguel is a rather cold river. During the spring runoff the river is full of freshly melted snow, and the temperature of the water is especially cold.
Please make sure that you dress appropriately when participating in whitewater sports. Wear shoes that can protect feet if you bounce off rocks or walk out of a canyon in the event of an accident. Wet suits are mandatory when air and water temperature added together total 100 degrees or less. If total is less than 80 degrees, a full set of waterproof or wool garments on top of the wet suit should be worn.
The free flowing San Miguel runs west - southwest from headwaters above Telluride, high in the San Juan mountains. To reach the river follow Highway 145 west out of Telluride, the river follows the highway.