Roaring Fork Valley
|Major cities|| Glenwood Springs |
|Time zone||UTC−7 (Mountain Standard Time/MST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−6 (MDT)|
The Roaring Fork Valley is a geographical region in western Colorado in the United States. The Roaring Fork Valley is one of the most affluent regions in Colorado and the U.S. as well as one of the most populous and economically vital areas of the Colorado Western Slope.[ citation needed ] The Valley is defined by the valley of the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries, including the Crystal and Fryingpan River. It includes the communities of Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. Mount Sopris and the Roaring Fork River serve as symbols of the Roaring Fork Valley.
The valley was inhabited by the Ute people prior to the coming of the first U.S. settlers over Independence Pass in 1879. The first settlers were prospectors looking for silver in the wake of the Colorado Silver Boom in nearby Leadville. Aspen flourished as a mining community in the late 1880s and early 1890s until the silver crash of 1893. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, coal mining in the valley of the Crystal emerged as an important extractive industry, one that has nearly entirely vanished (coal is still extracted south of McClure Pass in the nearby North Fork Valley).
The Roaring Fork Valley is part of the larger Roaring Fork Watershed, which includes the Fryingpan and Crystal River valleys. The valley extends for approximately 50 mi (80 km) southeast to northwest from Aspen northwest to Glenwood Springs at the mouth of the Roaring Fork on the Colorado River, ranging in width between 1 and 5 mi (1.6 and 8.0 km). It is surrounded by mountains on all sides, in particular on its southwest edge by the high Elk Mountains that are location of the Aspen/Snowmass ski resorts. The upper (southeast) end of the valley is sometimes called the Aspen Valley, but locals simply refer to it as "up-valley" - Aspen - and "down-valley" - Glenwood Springs. Mount Sopris dominates the lower (northwest) end of the valley and serves as an unofficial symbol of the region. Many think the Roaring Fork River, from which the valley was named, is the unofficial symbol of the region.
The politics of the Roaring Fork Watershed are somewhat complex, arising principally from the fact that the watershed is split awkwardly among four different counties: Pitkin (Aspen), Eagle County (Basalt), Garfield County (Glenwood Springs, Carbondale), and Gunnison County. The fragmented structure is in contrast to the nearby Eagle Valley, which lies entirely within Eagle County. The fragmented governmental structure has made the adoption of a comprehensive land-use and growth policy more difficult, especially in regard to Aspen, which has struggled between the extremes of allowing unbridled growth leading to sprawl and restricting growth altogether. Roaring Fork Conservancy works on river and water issues across these lines and the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative works to address regional issues in this geographic area.
The main economic engine of the valley is the Aspen/Snowmass recreational skiing complex which directly or indirectly drives the related tourism, hospitality, retail, construction, real estate, professional service and property maintenance industries. Although skiing forms the foundation of the economy, other activities increasingly contribute to visitor numbers. Non-winter recreational and cultural activities such as fly fishing on the Fryingpan and whitewater rafting on the Roaring Fork, hiking near the Maroon Bells in the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness, enjoying the caverns and hot springs in Glenwood Springs, the Aspen Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute conferences, the Aspen Music Festival, and other cultural events attract visitors year-round. Although the valley floor is largely privately owned, most of the surrounding highlands are within the White River National Forest and are another source of recreation and tourism. Agriculture, principally livestock raising, plays a very moderate and declining role in the valley's economy.[ citation needed ] However, the ranches that still cover large parts of the lower valley contribute to tourism. Potato cultivation has historically been important in the lower valley, but is virtually nonexistent at present.[ citation needed ]
The valley has been one of the most rapidly growing areas of Colorado in recent years,[ when? ] not only in the vicinity of Aspen, but notably in the lower end of the valley below Basalt.[ citation needed ] The communities of Basalt and Carbondale have served as bedroom communities for day workers in Aspen, where high property values have increasingly strained the ability of low and middle-income workers to afford the cost of living, though the affluence that marks the Upper Roaring Fork Valley is gradually leaking into the rest of the Valley.[ original research? ] Many employees in Glenwood Springs live further down the Colorado river due to the same acute lack of affordable housing.[ citation needed ]
State Highway 82 serves as the principal transportation artery of the valley, having many freeway characteristics. The once rural character of much of the valley has been replaced with nearly continuous development linking the region's four main cities. Though parts of the valley are largely rural, the valley is served by a public transportation system called the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which provides public transit along the commuting route between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
The City of Aspen is the home rule municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 7,004 at the 2020 United States Census. Aspen is in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains' Sawatch Range and Elk Mountains, along the Roaring Fork River at an elevation just below 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level on the Western Slope, 11 miles (18 km) west of the Continental Divide. Aspen is now a part of the Glenwood Springs, CO Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Pitkin County is a county in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2020 census, the population was 17,358. The county seat and largest city is Aspen. The county is named for Colorado Governor Frederick Walker Pitkin. Pitkin County has the seventh-highest per capita income of any U.S. county. Measured by mean income of the top 5% of earners, it is the wealthiest U.S. county.
The Town of Basalt is a home rule municipality located in Eagle and Pitkin counties, Colorado, United States. The town population was 3,984 at the 2020 United States Census with 2,917 residing in Eagle County and 1,067 residing in Pitkin County. Basalt is a part of the Edwards-Glenwood Springs, CO Combined Statistical Area.
The Town of Carbondale is a home rule municipality located in Garfield County, Colorado, United States. The town population was 6,434 at the 2020 United States Census. Carbondale is a part of the Glenwood Springs, CO Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Glenwood Springs is a home rule municipality that is the county seat of Garfield County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 9,963 at the 2020 United States Census. Glenwood Springs is located at the confluence of the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River, threading together the Roaring Fork Valley and a series of smaller towns up and down the Colorado River.
Colorado Mountain College (CMC) is a public community college with multiple campuses in western Colorado. Founded in 1965, the institution offers associate degrees, and five bachelor's degrees and certificates. Approximately 20,000 students take on-campus or online classes every year.
Roaring Fork River is a tributary of the Colorado River, approximately 70 miles (110 km) long, in west central Colorado in the United States. The river drains a populated and economically vital area of the Colorado Western Slope called the Roaring Fork Valley or Roaring Fork Watershed, which includes the resort city of Aspen and the resorts of Aspen/Snowmass.
Snowmass is an unincorporated community and a U.S. Post Office located in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. It is situated in the valley of the Roaring Fork River, near the mouth of Snowmass Creek along State Highway 82 between Aspen and Basalt. It consists largely of a post office, several commercial businesses, and surrounding houses and ranches. The Snowmass Post Office has the ZIP Code 81654.
The Elk Mountains are a high, rugged mountain range in the Rocky Mountains of west-central Colorado in the United States. The mountains sit on the western side of the Continental Divide, largely in southern Pitkin and northern Gunnison counties, in the area southwest of Aspen, south of the Roaring Fork River valley, and east of the Crystal River. The range sits west of the Sawatch Range and northeast of the West Elk Mountains. Much of the range is located within the White River National Forest and the Gunnison National Forest, as well as the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and Raggeds Wilderness. The Elk Mountains rise nearly 9,000 ft. above the Roaring Fork Valley to the north.
Mount Sopris is a twin-summit mountain in the northwestern Elk Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The prominent 12,965-foot (3,952 m) mountain is located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness of White River National Forest, 6.6 miles (10.7 km) north by northeast of the community of Redstone in Pitkin County, Colorado, United States.
State Highway 82 is an 85.3-mile-long (137.3 km) state highway in the U.S. state of Colorado. Its western half provides the principal transportation artery of the Roaring Fork Valley on the Colorado Western Slope, beginning at Interstate 70 (I-70) and U.S. Highway 6 in Glenwood Springs southeast past Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen. From there it continues up the valley to cross the Continental Divide at Independence Pass. On the Eastern Slope, it follows Lake Creek past some of Colorado's highest mountains to Twin Lakes Reservoir, where it ends at US 24 south of Leadville.
The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness is a 168,000-acre (680 km2) area located in central Colorado between Leadville and Buena Vista to the east and Aspen to the west and Crested Butte to the southwest. Most of the area is in the San Isabel and Gunnison National Forests, with a smaller area in the White River National Forest southeast of Aspen. Most of the area is in northwest Chaffee County with smaller portions in Gunnison, Pitkin, and Lake counties.
White River National Forest is a National Forest in northwest Colorado. It is named after the White River that passes through its northern section. It is the most visited National Forest in the United States, primarily from users of the twelve ski areas within its boundaries.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is an agency that operates public transportation for the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado. RFTA's service area stretches 70 miles (110 km) from Aspen to Rifle, serving major cities of Basalt, Snowmass Village, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs in between. RFTA also operates seasonal ski shuttles, guided bus tours to Maroon Bells, paratransit, and manages the Rio Grande Trail.
KAJX and KCJX are radio stations simulcasting a majority NPR news format with a afternoon Classical Music block during the Summer months. The stations are licensed to Roaring Fork Public Radio, Inc. in Aspen, Colorado (KAJX) and Carbondale, Colorado (KCJX). Located in Aspen, the non-commercial station is governed by a board of directors. It serves Roaring Fork, Crystal, Fryingpan, and Eagle River valleys in the state of Colorado.
The original Maroon Creek Bridge is a steel trestle along State Highway 82 at the western boundary of Aspen, Colorado, United States. It was designed by George S. Morison in 1888 for the Colorado Midland Railroad, one of the last viaducts in Colorado built for a standard gauge mountain railroad in the 19th century. Of the five steel bridges the Midland built, it is the only one still extant. Due to the later removal of most track and the rail depots, the bridge is the most visible remnant of rail service to Aspen. In 1985 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with other highway bridges in the state, including the Sheely Bridge, also in Aspen.
Catherine is an unincorporated community and a census-designated place (CDP) located in and governed by Garfield County, Colorado, United States. The CDP is a part of the Glenwood Springs, CO Micropolitan Statistical Area. The population of the Catherine CDP was 228 at the United States Census 2010. The Glenwood Springs post office serves the area.
The Lake Christine Fire burned near Basalt and Carbondale, in Eagle County, Colorado, United States. The fire was the result of an act of criminal arson. It started on July 3, 2018, and was later downgraded to a Burned Area Response on September 4, 2018, after 13 weeks. It destroyed a total of 12,588 wilderness acres on Basalt Mountain and seriously injured a volunteer firefighter. The Lake Christine fire also destroyed the home of a long-time volunteer firefighter who was battling the blaze in response to his call of duty on the evening of July 4. Several structures were destroyed.