Colorado fishing reports information TroutGear south platte fishing maps

'Magic' Crystal River

by K. Christopherson

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Many anglers head to the Aspen area for the fine flyfishing on the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan. And most of these people overlook one of the region's other fine streams, the Crystal. This freestone river runs for almost 35 miles along a quiet path which is sided by some of Colorado's gorgeous scenery.

The headwaters of the Crystal lie above the town of Marble. This alpine country of high peaks is home to a large marble deposit. The marble was quarried for use in many well-known buildings, including the Lincoln Memorial. The quarry re-opened a few years ago, and will supply the marble for the restoration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As you drive to the headwaters of the Crystal, you'll drive through the town of Marble where the mill was. Large blocks of marble lie everywhere. This makes for scenic footing as you cast into the river!

The Crystal ends at Carbondale where it merges with the Roaring Fork. Note - this is where some of the finest fishing, albeit not the greatest scenery, can be found. The confluence can be great fishing during the spring and fall when the rainbows and browns (respectively) run up the Crystal to spawn. You'll also find a large population of Whitefish in the Crystal. Get off you high horse about these fish - they're fun to chase too!

Crystal River near Marble, Colorado White marble and snow line the banks in the spring

All but the last six miles of the river's course flow through White River National Forest. This makes access a bit easier to figure out, as long as you respect the private lands within the forest. The upper reaches can be accessed at campgrounds and turnouts. Fishing is also allowed at the historic Redstone Lodge (for a fee).

The Crystal has a good mix of water with flatter sections spelling the rough 'n tumble, boulder-strewn plunge pools. This same water attracts kayakers in the Spring. On that subject, the Crystal river is not always crystal clear. The beauty of the area, in part created by the geology, also lends a hand in muddying up this stream during runoff or heavy rains. During these times, your best bet will be to head east and fishing the Roaring Fork above its confluence with the Crystal.

Crystal River near Redstone, Colorado Flowing near Redstone Flyfishing on the Crystal in Colorado Views of the higher country

Access near Carbondale:

Side trips:


colorado fishing bookClick here to buy an Ebook about Trout fishing on Colorado State lands - includes info about areas near Marble and Basalt.


colorado fishing topo map Click here to buy topo maps for this area. You need map 128 which will cover a good portion of the Crystal.

Click here to buy an Flyfishing Guide for the Roaring Fork Valley Area by Michael Shook.

Check out the web site for White River Nat'l Forest for info on camping, hikes, and drives


In the area are numerous campgrounds and a variety of lodging types. In Basalt try the Basalt Mountain Inn or Taylor Creek Cabins