Years of consideration and conservation work has led to a long-awaited designation for two pristine rivers in Colorado. On Jan. 18, 2023, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission announced the Gunnison and Taylor rivers as the newest Gold Medal trout fisheries in the state.
The stretches nominated and approved include 20 miles of the Taylor River below Taylor Park Reservoir and 12.5 miles of the Gunnison River starting west of the town of Gunnison at Twin Bridges and extending to the town of Almont. Wilder on the Taylor is located on County Road 742 along a two-mile section of the Taylor River in this area. The historic ranch dates to 1893, when the first parcels of the current 2,100 acres were homesteaded.
“It’s an achievement that came about by a lot of work by a lot of people over a number of decades. It’s amazing to see the quality of fisheries that we have here,” says CPW Assistant Aquatic Section Manager Josh Nehring.
Explaining Gold Medal Designation
CPW’s Gold Medal Program showcases the most elite fisheries throughout the state. Fisheries in Colorado may be designated as Gold Medal if they meet two qualifying criteria: 60 pounds of fish per acre and at least 12 quality trout of 14 inches or greater per acre. With the addition of the Gunnison and Taylor rivers, Colorado now has 19 Gold Medal sections on 13 rivers totaling roughly 362 miles. The state also has three lakes that have earned Gold Medal designation.
While the Gunnison and Taylor are newly designated, CPW aquatic biologists believe the rivers have produced Gold Medal quality trout fishing since the 1990s. Dan Brauch, aquatic biologist for the Gunnison Basin, notes that while the rivers had met the biological criteria for designation for decades it was important to ensure the streams provided long-lasting fish habitat for all life stages of trout.
“Significant work went into maintaining conditions on the Gunnison and Taylor rivers to allow those fisheries to continue to persist,” Brauch says. “We have sampled the rivers quite a few times in the last 10 years, and we continued to see good numbers of quality-size trout and abundant trout.”
He adds, “The Gunnison and Taylor Rivers really represent a successful conservation story with lots of partners that have made this fishery what it is today.”
The Importance of Stewardship
CPW Area Wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond encouraged anglers to help protect these resources for generations to come. “It’s extremely important right now for all water users and conservation-minded people, including anglers, to view these incredible resources through a stewardship lens,” he emphasizes. “And I strongly encourage all of us to evaluate how we can contribute to the long-term conservation of these waters and how we fit in as stewards of the land and river resources.
Wilder on the Taylor
At the forefront of decisions at Wilder on the Taylor is to protect, preserve and perpetuate the land for future generations. “We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and everyone involved to make Gold Medal designation for these rivers a reality,” says Michele Wheeler, president of Wilder on the Taylor Homeowners Association (HOA).
Wilder on the Taylor is committed to preserving the two-mile stretch of the Taylor River that runs through the property. The ranch has made habitat improvements, and on-site fishing guide Ben Riedel provides homeowners with ongoing education about best practices and monitors the fishery for disease. Wilder’s policies include catch and release, use of barbless hooks, and limits on the number of anglers per home, fishing guests, and fish caught or played per angler.
“The spirit of preservation among the homeowners has led to investment in the fishery, adherence to the rules, and participation on the fishing committee. Wilder homeowners set a great standard for stewardship on the river,” says Jim Beasley, a Wilder HOA board member and chair of the fishing committee.
In addition, Ranch Manager Don Sabrowski serves as chair of the Taylor Local Users Group of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. The group is made up of representatives from various user groups who meet regularly during the spring and summer months to review operations and reach a consensus on recommendations regarding water flow and taking care of the Taylor River.
Wilder also had worked closely with the USDA Forest Service, Colorado State Forest Service and National Forest Foundation on forest health projects in the Taylor Canyon.
Click to watch Wilder in action: Feature Film Library