San Miguel River: Canyon Preserve in Colorado
Canyon Preserve Dramatic canyon walls rise above riparian habitat in this autumn view of the San Miguel river near the Dallas Divide, southwest Colorado. © Lynn McBride

Places We Protect

San Miguel River Canyon Preserve

Colorado

Experience nature on foot or on the water.

Why You Should Visit    

More than 80 percent of Colorado's wildlife depends on rivers and riverside habitat. The San Miguel, one of the few remaining naturally functioning rivers of the West, supports some of the best riparian (streamside) habitat in the Upper Colorado Basin.

Natural flood cycles and a history of very limited development have kept many parts of this river in pristine condition, much as they would have appeared before the state was settled.

You can explore a dramatic, narrow canyon with red-rock sandstone walls looming as high as 2,000 feet. A discerning eye might see nesting American dippers (water ouzels) along the canyon walls. In its depths, a very rare riparian forest community combines narrowleaf cottonwood, Colorado blue spruce and thinleaf alder. 

Location

Southwestern Colorado: In San Miguel County, near Telluride - near the upper end of the San Miguel River Canyon, about four miles downstream from Placerville.

What to Expect

No well-established trails, but foot traffic is allowed.

Consider rafting, canoeing or kayaking the river to get a different perspective. The preserve doesn't contain any put-ins or take-outs, but these can be found upstream and downstream.

Why The Conservancy Selected This Site

Because it supports one of the best known examples of the globally-rare narrowleaf cottonwood-Colorado blue spruce/thinleaf alder riparian plant community.

What The Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

With three preserves and cooperative projects with the Bureau of Land Management and other partners, The Conservancy has helped protect more than 30 miles of the San Miguel River. 

The Conservancy's first preserve along the San Miguel was established at Tabeguache in 1988. San Miguel Canyon and South Fork both were acquired (within several weeks of each other) in 1989.

When to Visit

Year-round, dawn to dusk

Explore some of the some of the best streamside habitat Colorado has to offer. Wade along the shores or canoe through on the waters of the San Miguel River. Catch and release fishing is allowed as long as you use artificial flies and lures.

The preserve has no well-established trails, but foot traffic is allowed. You might consider rafting, canoeing or kayaking the river to get a different perspective. There are access points before and after the preserve.