Hop In to the Conejos River

by Karen Christopherson

Tucked down in southern Colorado, in the eastern portion of the San Juan Mountains, is a a flyfisher's dream - a beautiful river with lots of access. The Conejos River has fishing access and easements along more than 60 miles of its course.

Portions on the Conejos are in the San Juan National Forest, or in the South San Juan Wilderness Area. Other fishing easements have been provided on private land, in this portion of the state favored for summer cabins.

Conejos means 'rabbit' in Spanish - good question why anyone would ever name a river after these little hopping creatures. Regardless, it's a great area for fishing and enjoying scenery at the same time. You can angle for almost every type of trout in this river and see some gorgeous country at the same time.

Access-

  • Headwaters The Conejos starts above Platoro Reservoir. Take USFS Rd. 250 north from Hwy 17 to the old town of Platoro and the reservoir (about 25 miles). There is some road access above the reservoir, but to get to the headwater creeks, you will need to hike into the South San Juan Wilderness.
  • Lake Fork The Lake Fork of the Conejos is Wild Trout water from its headwaters through and including Big Lake and Rock Lake. The Lake Fork is accessed by trails off of USFS Rd. 250.
  • Saddle Creek to South Fork Flyfishing only; includes some of the Pinnacles area in the canyon.
  • South Fork to Menkhaven Ranch Some access on USForest property; respect private property
  • Other: The Conejos River SWA is no longer active. From Menkhaven Ranch downstream  - access on US Forest lands near Aspen Glade and Mogote Campgrounds.
platoro canyon Colorado
Platoro Canyon Photo by Al Marlowe
conejos river Colorado
Even dogs enjoy the Conejos. Maybe she is looking for the rabbits? Photo by Al Marlowe
platoro river Colorado
Looking upstream from junction of Hwy 17 and FR250

Rules for the Conejos:

Menkhaven Ranch downstream, to Aspen Glade Campground -Rules also apply to Bear Creek subdivision, HEBO Corp. and Douglas properties:

  • Artificial flies only
  • Bag and possession is two trout, 16" or longer

From lower bridge at Platoro downstream to confluence with South Fork of the Conejos:

  • Artificial flies and lures only
  • Bag and possession is two trout, 16" or longer

Lake Fork - from headwaters downstream thru and including Rock Lake and tailwater

  • Artificial flies and lures only
  • All cutthroats must be returned to the water immediately

How to get there:

Take Hwy 17 going west from Antonito, or east from Chama NM. Forest Rd 250 runs north from where Hwy 17 meets the Conejos. There are numerous forest roads north of the areas where you can access other rivers or lakes.

Resources/Other Info:

colorado fishing topo mapClick here to buy a topo map for this area. You need map 142 for the headwaters, Platoro Res, and downstream to the junction of FR250 and Hwy 17. Maps are produced by National Geographic Maps

colorado fishing bookBuy an ebook: Fifty Colorado Tailwaters: A Fly Fisher's Guide Click here for info or to purchase. Includes the Conejos below Platoro