COLORADO STATE WILDLIFE AREAS: NEW RULES AND WHAT THEY MEAN FOR BOATERS
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission adopted a rule change at its April 2020 meeting requiring all visitors 18 or older to possess a valid hunting or fishing license to access any State Wildlife Area (SWA) or State Trust Land (STL) leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This new rule went into effect beginning July 1, 2020. These lands are meant to conserve important habitat for Colorado wildlife, they are not state parks. As Colorado’s population has grown and physically expanded into closer proximity with many of these SWAs, public uses have increased and the pressure has expanded. More residents are using SWAs as they would open spaces or local parks. CPW has determined that higher visitation, increased pressure on the habitat, and activities that are disruptive to wildlife are incompatible with the original wildlife purpose of our SWAs.
Some SWAs include river access points popular for boating (e.g. Loma boat launch for Ruby Horsethief Canyon). This means that in order to legally put in or take out of a river at these places, anyone 18 or older needs to possess a valid hunting or fishing license. A resident one-day license can be purchased for $13.90 while an annual license costs $35.17. A resident one-day small game license is $13.90 and an annual resident license is $30.11. More details about licensing are available here: https://www.cpwshop.com/licensing.page. At this point, the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) has indicated to CW that the new policy does not affect any areas within the AHRA because there are already access fees.
Most whitewater rivers in Colorado are accessible through public access points that are not in SWAs. For the few sections that do have SWAs, alternate access points are available and CPW encourages boaters to use the alternate access points. For more information about this new rule, here are several helpful links:
American Whitewater Article: https://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/Article/view/?articleid=34473
Rule explanation: https://coloradooutdoorsmag.com/2020/07/20/state-wildlife-area-rules/
Wildlife area maps: https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Pages/WildlifeAreaMap.aspx
FAQs about the rule: https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/LandWater/SWA/License-Requirements-SWA-STL-Access-FAQ.pdf