Study shows the Fryingpan’s lure of anglers is more than just myth

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The ability of the Fryingpan River to lure anglers from around the country with its gold medal waters is no longer myth.

A study by the Roaring Fork Conservancy reveals just how important the river’s trout fishing is to the economy of Basalt and the entire valley.

The 7.5-mile stretch of public land along the lower Fryingpan River attract about 34,000 visitor days annually, according to the Conservancy’s economic analysis. More than 70 percent of the visits occur between May 1 and Sept. 30.

Half of those visitors are coming from somewhere in Colorado outside of the Roaring Fork Valley. Another 34 percent are coming from outside the state, the study showed. Only 16 percent are from the valley.

Those visitors pump an estimated $2.6 million of direct expenditures into the economy of Basalt and the surrounding area, the study said. That includes spending on fishing guides, gear and licenses.

Another $3.9 million is spent annually on indirect expenditures, such as hotels, groceries, restaurants and shopping, according to Jeanne Beaudry, the Conservancy’s executive director.

“It was often considered that Basalt was a ski town,” Beaudry said. “This shows that the lower valley is more than a ski town.”

The economic study was prepared by the Conservancy’s Kristine Crandall. It relied heavily on surveys of visitors to the Fryingpan and Ruedi last summer.

The average daily expenditure for people coming from out of the area is $135.62, the study said. About 40 percent of that goes to lodging while 17 percent is spent in restaurants and bars.

Another 12 percent is dedicated to both retail shopping and gas/groceries, the study showed. Guide fees accounted for 10 percent of spending while user fees and licenses were 4 percent.

The remainder of accounting, 5 percent, is for car rental or airfares.

The Conservancy’s study focused only on visitors to the public stretches of the river. Private landowners control visits to the other 6.5 miles of the lower river, and many of them operate through an agreement with fishing guides.

Good fishing matters more to most visitors than getting away from it all. About 72 percent of the visitor days are racked up in the 2-mile stretch below the Ruedi Reservoir dam.

If the Fryingpan River is dominated by visitors from outside the valley, Ruedi Reservoir is the hangout for locals.

A survey with the Conservancy’s study shows 52 percent of Ruedi visitors were from within the valley while 44 percent were from elsewhere in Colorado. Only 4 percent of visitors were from out of state.

Direct spending due to summer recreation at Ruedi generates about $147,000. Reservoir visitors participate in fishing, water-skiing, sailing, motorboating, jet-skiing and canoeing and kayaking.

Beaudry said the study is important because it supplies the first look at the role of fishing to the economy. She hoped that it will be used by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation when it determines management practices and water releases from Ruedi Reservoir.

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