Slate River Floating

How to recreate on, care for, and enjoy our lands

The Slate River is enjoyed by many types of users including ranchers, recreationalists, private landowners, and, of course, the Great Blue Herons! Over the past three decades, the Crested Butte Land Trust has protected the wildlife habitats, ranching heritage, and public access to this beautiful waterway.

Our first project back in 1991 was protecting the Confluence Parcel which you can see as you cross the Slate River bridge as Gothic Rd leaves Crested Butte and heads up the mountain. More recently in 2023, we worked with local land owners to protect land surrounding the Slate River between the Town of Crested Butte and the Riverland neighborhood. From start to finish, we are proud of the partnerships, volunteer hours, and annual monitoring efforts that have gone into ensuring the Slate River will remain available for all to enjoy for generations.

Please review and follow the information below to help everyone has a good time on and around this beautiful resource.

Designated Access Points

Upper Reach

Oh-Be-Joyful Campground (put-in), Gunsight Bridge (put-in/take-out), River Flats (put-in/take-out), Slate River Boat Launch (put-in/take-out)

Voluntary no-float from March 15-July 15

Lower Reach

Slate River Boat Launch (put-in), Skyland Bridge (take-out)

River Safety

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 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 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 by wearing your Personal Floatation Device (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 and river conditions as well as long stretches through private land and without a restroom. Tubing is not recommended.

River Fencing

You will encounter river fencing along the way. We share this area with local ranchers and their cattle, and fences are used to keep cows in the right places during grazing seasons. River fences are made of white PVC pipes and are floater-friendly options when fences cross rivers. When you encounter a river fence, hold tight and float underneath; it is designed for this purpose! If you encounter any cows near the river, show them the same respect you would any other user.

Responsible River Use

  • Voluntary No Float Period - March 15 - July 15Help protect this fragile refuge for the Great Blue Herons by respecting the voluntary no float period between Gunsight Bridge and the Slate River Boat Launch
  • Plan your trip at less popular times to avoid overcrowdingParking is limited at all locations; please carpool or bike whenever possible
  • Be respectful of neighboring private propertyMuch of what you float through is private property, and touching the bottom or banks of the river is considered trespassing
  • Go before you goDon't use the river bank as a toilet
  • Be mindful and respectful of other users on the river, including wildlifeDo not use amplified sound systems, and note that from Gunsight Bridge to the Slate River boat launch is a quiet float zone due to critical wildlife habitat
  • Leave your dogs at homeTo be respectful of neighboring wildlife, cattle, and homes, do not float with your furry friend; dogs are not permitted to put in or take out at the Slate River Boat Launch location
  • Float in groups of six or fewerSpace out from other groups when you launch and let faster groups float through while on the river
  • Leave no trace, pack it in, pack it outPick up after yourself and leave the river and access points better than you found them
  • Recreate safely and responsiblyMake sure you are comfortable with conditions and float at your own risk
  • Share the love - educate others who aren't following best practices

Don't Be Scarin' the Herons

Voluntary No-Float Period

March 15 through 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 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. After July 15, if the conditions allow for floating, float respectfully and quietly in small groups between these locations.

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, including from Oh-Be-Joyful Campground to River Flats.

Slate River Working Group

In partnership with the Town of Crested Butte, the Land Trust formed the Slate River Working Group (SRWG) in 2018 to address increasing concerns around resource protection, wildlife impacts, and private property rights along the Slate River. This collaborate group effort combines the interests of land managers, local businesses, guide outfitters, paddling enthusiastes, and private homeowners. The SRWG created the informational pamphlet below and works annualy to identify shared values and solutions to competing desires for the area. 

Thank You for Recreating Responsibly!

Click below to learn special rules and best practices on each Land Trust owned and managed property

Protect What You Love

As pressures on the Gunnison Valley increase, you can be part of the solution.
Leave a legacy of open space protection by donating to the Crested Butte Land Trust today,
and ensure that you and generations to come will continue to enjoy our unique quality of life.


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