Slate River Working Group

Slate River Working Group

Over the past five years, recreational use on the Slate River has increased substantially.  As recreational use has intensified, new concerns about habitat protection, water quality, commercial use, and the protection of private property have arisen.  These issues are compounded by the patchwork of landowners and managers along the banks of the Slate.  As open space managers in the Slate River Valley, the Town of Crested Butte and Land Trust recognize their obligation to uphold the ecological, economic, and recreational resource for the community.

Planning a trip to SUP the Slate? The Slate River is a wild and special place—the river meanders through public and private property, critical wildlife habitat, high-quality wetlands, and agricultural lands grazed by livestock. With your stewardship, we can keep it wild for future generations. Help our community keep it wild by adhering to the following river etiquette:

River Access

  • Only use designated river access points to put-in and take-out on the river.
  • Parking isn’t a plenty—please carpool or ride your bike to the access points.

Remember, you cannot leave the river mid-float, you must use an access point to start and finish. Please note that much of what you float through is private property.

  • The only access points are:

Upper Reach: Oh-Be-Joyful Campground, Gunsight Bridge, River Flats, Slate River Boat Launch

Lower Reach: Slate River Boat Launch, Skyland Bridge


Be a Good Neighbor

  • Respect our neighbors and do not go on private property.
  • Please leave your dogs at home. To be respectful of wildlife, cattle, and our neighbors, it is recommended to not float with your furry friend. Dogs are legally not permitted to put-in or take-out on river at Slate River Boat Launch.
  • No amplified music or sound systems. From Gunsight Bridge to the Slate River Boat Launch is a quiet float zone due to critical wildlife habitat.
  • Float in groups of six people or fewer. Please space out from other groups when you launch and let faster groups float through while on the river.
  • Don’t be that guy: don’t litter and pack out your trash.
  • Go before you float! Don’t use the river bank as a toilet.

Don’t be Scarin’ the Heron—Recommended No-Float Period in Effect until July 15

The Slate River wetlands provides a fragile refuge for resident and migratory wildlife, including, Great Blue Heron, Elk, and Waterfowl. The stretch of river from Gunsight Bridge to all the way to the Slate River Boat Launch has a recommended no-float period from March 15-July 15 due to the critical nesting period of the Great Blue Heron rookery. After July 15, if the conditions allow for floating, float respectfully and quietly.

**Please note that during this voluntary no-float period, or when the river is too low to float, recreationists are still permitted to float on the public lands administered by the BLM, which would mean from Oh-Be-Joyful Campground to River Flats.

Go With the Flow

Make sure you are comfortable with conditions, and float at your own risk. The Slate River is snow-melt driven; peak flows can lead to dangerous conditions, and by mid-late summer, the water level becomes too low to float, making for an unenjoyable experience. It is your responsibility to check conditions before heading out. It’s suggested to talk to local shop and outfitter personnel about the current conditions. Click here for more information on the Slate River and its current flow levels.

No Lifeguard on Duty!

Avoid becoming a statistic—wear a PFD! Dangerous obstacles such as strong currents, rocks and log jams can be hazardous at both high and low flows. Be prepared for changing weather & river conditions, and long stretches through private land and without a restroom. Tubing is not recommended.


We share this area with local ranchers and their cattle. Fences are needed to keep cattle from wandering. When you encounter a river fence (made of white plastic), please hold tight and float underneath the fence; it is designed for this purpose! If you encounter any cows near the river, show them the same respect you would any other user.

To address the challenge of integrating the needs and desires of many different stakeholders along the Slate River, the Town and Land Trust have convened a collaborative working group.  The Slate River Working Group, made up of 18 stakeholders, will work together to identify and address river-specific management opportunities present in a 10.5-mile reach of the Upper Slate River, from the Oh-Be-Joyful campground to the north, to the Skyland Bridge to the south.

To develop a mutually agreed-upon, community-driven management approach that results in sustainable use of the Slate River.

The Slate River is a vital element of the Crested Butte community.  Its presence in the heart of Paradise Divide is one of the most prominent characteristics of the Upper Gunnison Valley, defining Crested Butte as an exceptional place to live and recreate.  The close proximity of downtown Crested Butte to a river valley with some of the state’s highest functioning wetlands, a broad range of recreational opportunities, and unmatched scenic quality is very unique and demands maintaining.

As recreational use has intensified in the past five years, new concerns about habitat protection, water quality, commercial use, and the protection of private property have arisen.  These issues are compounded by the patchwork of landowners and managers along the banks of the Slate.  To address the challenge of integrating the needs and desires of many different stakeholders along the Slate River, the Land Trust and Town are interested in developing a multi-stakeholder plan through a collaborative working group.

To date, the Land Trust and Town of Crested Butte have conserved over 1,100 acres throughout the Slate River Valley.  As open space managers and conservation easement holders, the Land Trust and Town are obligated to ensure that the diversity of uses on conserved lands are compatible with the character and natural resource values of the landscape.

As a municipality, the Town of Crested Butte works in the service of health, safety, and well-being of its citizens.  The Town believes that sustainable management of the Slate River, a critical community resource, is important to the long-term vitality of the Town.

The Crested Butte Land Trust

The Town of Crested Butte

Ranch operators (2)

Bureau of Land Management

Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Coal Creek Watershed Coalition

High Country Conservation Advocates

The Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District

Gunnison County

Skyland Metro District

Irwin Guides


Private landowners (4)

Local river advocate (1)

The Town and Land Trust recognize that there are many more interested individuals and organizations than included on the above list.  In order to create a balanced, productive working environment, the Town and Land Trust have chosen stakeholders that they believe can represent general interest groups and effectively communicate the working group’s progress back to their interest group.

If you have questions, comments or concerns about the Slate River Working Group, please contact Peter Horgan at or 970-349-1206.