Fish Creek Falls a must see for visitors

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— The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the land surrounding Fish Creek Falls, estimates that 100,000 people visit the falls every year.

The 283-foot cascading waterfall is a winter's worth of snowmelt crashing over a cliff into the canyon creek below.

Acquired by the Forest Service in the early 1980s, the Fish Creek Falls area offers hikes, a picnic area and signs with nature information. The area is also open to bikers and horseback riders.

Ray George, the district's recreation program manager, said the spot is the most heavily visited Forest Service area in Routt County.

"Going down through Fish Creek is a beautiful place. It is just so convenient to town," George said.

A quarter-mile trail leads down to the falls. From there, hiking enthusiasts can take the 6-mile hike to Long Lake that leads to the Continental Divide trail. A half-mile overlook trail gives visitors a bird's-eye view of the falls.

Both the hikes to the overlook and the bridge at the base of Fish Creek Falls are well groomed and easily accessible.

The six-mile hike to Long Lake will take hikers up steep switchbacks through heavily forested areas and aspen groves before opening into a lush green valley. As hikers continue along the trail, they will cross a bridge and can turn around to catch stunning views of the Yampa Valley and town.

Eventually, hikers reach the Upper Falls before continuing onto more switchbacks, a meadow area and Long Lake.

Visitors can take a shorter hike to visit the Uranium Mines. The 1.5-mile hike starts in between the park's lower and upper parking lots and takes hikers to the old mines. The hike also gives great views of Fish Creek Falls, the Ski Area and the Flat Tops. The trail eventually leads to a branch of Fish Creek.

The Fish Creek Falls area first belonged to homesteaders in 1901. A few years later it was sold to the Crawford family, one of Steamboat's founding families. The Crawfords kept the land open to the public.

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads and campgrounds in the area. In the next 50 years the land was managed between the city of Steamboat Springs and the Forest Service.

When the land was sold to a group in California, threats were made to develop the area in the early 1980s. Bob Adams was instrumental in preserving the area when he agreed to a land swap that would trade a piece of land in the southern part of the county for 160 acres around the falls.

The forest service has since made improvements on the area. The community came together in the late 1980s to restore the bridge at the base of Fish Creek Falls.

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