Eagle River Preserve

Eagle River Preserve

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The Eagle River Preserve is located approximately at mile marker 165.5 on US Highway 6 in Edwards. The upper parking lot is open year round, while the lower parking lot is open from April 15 to December 1 or as conditions allow. This part of the valley floor is populated by grasses and riparian vegetation characteristic of Colorado’s western rivers. The adjacent reach of the Eagle River is renowned for fishing and whitewater opportunities.

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Photo by Todd Winslow Pierce, www.eaglevalleywild.org

Recreation

Popular recreation activities on the property include fishing, hiking, dog walking, running, and biking. Private parties, weddings,camping, and hunting are not allowed. 

 

Dogs are required to be on-leash at the Preserve except for a designated “off-leash” area on the eastern side of the Preserve along the river. A seasonal wildlife closure is applied to an area of the Preserve to reduce wildlife related conflicts. This closure is in effect from December 1st to April 15th each year. 

 

Please respect CPW’s fishing closures when using this property. 

 

When visiting an Open Space property, please familiarize yourself with the posted specific rules and regulations or contact Eagle County Open Space with any questions. Some general guidelines are below:

 

  • All Open Space properties are open from sunrise to sunset unless otherwise specified
  • Please pack out all trash or deposit in garbage cans - Leave no Trace
  • Stay on designated routes
  • Motorized trail access, including electronic motors (e-bikes), ATV’s, and OHV’s is prohibited.
  • All commercial operators must have a valid permit from Eagle County Open Space if operating on Open Space properties

Additional information on allowed uses and rules

 

Wildlife

The Preserve’s grassland habitat is home to small mammals and accompanying birds of prey such as bald eagles, red tailed hawks, ospreys, and peregrine falcons, migratory birds, and amphibians. Predatory cats and coyotes commonly cross the Preserve during night hours. Large ungulates, including deer and elk, use the landscape for important winter forage and critical areas of respite. With support from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), a seasonal wildlife closure was implemented in 2017. It is not uncommon to see 25-50 elk on the Preserve during the winter closure.  

Elk at Eagle River Preserve

History

The Eagle River Preserve was previously known as  the “Eaton Ranch”. The former 120 acre ranch was purchased by the previous owner in the late 1960’s. Over time, various portions of the original ranch were sold and developed as commercial and residential properties, resulting in a 72 acre parcel. Gravel mining on the property started in the late 1960’s, and consisted mainly of gravel and sand extraction. The property also hosted small scale grazing and hay production operations. These operations continued on the  property until the acquisition by Eagle County in 2005. 

 

The property was purchased to create a natural buffer of approximately 72 acres west of the Edwards Commercial Core. The total purchase price, including the Conservation Easement costs, was $12 million.  $6 million was provided by the Vail Valley Foundation, GOCO, and private donors. The other $6 million was provided by Eagle County, with $3.9 million coming from the Open Space Fund and the other $2.1 million coming from the Eagle County General Fund. 

 

A phased reclamation and restoration project began in 2006 to address the former gravel pit. Cascading ditch irrigation structures were built to establish riparian vegetation and ephemeral  ponds. A pumphouse was installed along with other irrigation infrastructure to restore grass and trees throughout the site. Phase I of the restoration/reclamation plan included a parking lot, restrooms, and graveled trails. Phase II expanded the trail system and irrigation structures, creating wetlands and a shallow seasonal pond.  In 2012 the upper parking lot was installed to accommodate winter use. 

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