Roaring Fork Valley

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Roaring Fork Valley
Downtown of Aspen, Colorado.jpg
Mount Sopris.JPG
Glenwood springs co.jpg
Glenwood Springs
Country Flag of United States.svg United States of America
State Flag of Colorado.svg Colorado
Major cities Glenwood Springs
 - Aspen
 - Carbondale
 - Basalt
 (2010 est.)
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.


Whitewater rafting in the Valley. White Water Rafting.jpg
Whitewater rafting in the Valley.

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 healing waters of Glenwood Springs Glenwoodspringspool.jpg
The healing waters of Glenwood Springs

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Carbondale, Colorado Home Rule Municipality in Colorado, United States

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Glenwood Springs, Colorado Home Rule Municipality in Colorado, United States

The City of Glenwood Springs is the Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat of Garfield County, Colorado, United States. 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. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 9,614.

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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, Colorado Unincorporated community in Colorado, United States

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.

Elk Mountains (Colorado)

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

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.

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White River National Forest

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Roaring Fork Transportation Authority

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. 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.

Maroon Creek Bridge

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.

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