Junked cars decorate banks of Eagle River | AspenTimes.com

Junked cars decorate banks of Eagle River

Sarah Mausolf
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyA rafting tour of the Eagle River in May offers a view of a rusted car on the edge of the water near Edwards. The tour was arranged to showcase a stretch of the river where a restoration project is taking place.

EDWARDS, Colo. – While rafting down the Eagle River last month, some people in a boat did a double take when they passed by a curious sight in Edwards.

An antique car was nestled in the banks of the river.

Clearly placed there long ago, it had essentially become part of the earth and looked, as one person observed, like a giant planter.

There are actually two cars in the banks of the river in Edwards, and one fishing guide estimates there are about 15 cars altogether in the stretch of river that runs through Eagle County.

Local lore claims ranchers placed the cars along the river’s edge to stop the banks from sloughing off and prevent the river from encroaching on their land.

“It was done to keep the bank from eroding,” said John Packer, owner of Fly Fishing Outfitters in Avon. “People used to do stuff like that back in the day when it was only slightly illegal. Nowadays, throwing cars in the river is not really kosher.”

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Several people familiar with the river guessed the cars date back to the ’40s and ’50s. Ken Neubecker, a former Eagle resident and past president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said he once uncovered a car during an Eagle River cleanup event about 12 years ago. Only the roof of the car was peeking out of the river sediment, he said.

“We started to poke around and look at it. It was all grown into the willows. There was a lot of vegetation around it,” Neubecker said. “We thought, ‘Well, let’s just leave this here if it’s not doing anything.”

Neubecker thinks the car was buried in Edwards or Avon. He assumes the car is still there.

The Eagle River Watershed Council has been doing a restoration project along a 1.6-mile stretch of the river in Edwards. The council doesn’t have any immediate plans or funding to remove the cars, council executive director Melissa Macdonald said.

Nor is that something the council has formally discussed, but board member Joe Macy said it could be a worthy project. While he doesn’t see the cars as a huge problem, he said, removing them would be another way of caring for the environment.

“It takes, essentially, access across private land, as well as you’re going to need to have a backhoe or some kind of heavy equipment to get around the car to pull it out of the river,” Macy said.

During the restoration in Edwards, workers uncovered 33 tires that had been buried in the sediment, Macdonald said.

Most of the cars in the Eagle River blend in so well, people barely know they’re there. That’s less the case in a stretch of the Bighorn River, where a row of old cars along the banks have become a tourist attraction of sorts.

Called “the drive-in,” that reach near Fort Smith, Mont., includes about 30 cars dating back to the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, According to Bob Weist, manager of Bighorn Angler fly shop in Fort Smith. He said the drive-in is featured in the background of Simms Fishing Products commercials.

smausolf@vaildaily.com