The Cimarron River is a tributary of the Arkansas. It extends over 698 miles (1123 km) across four states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas). The headwaters flow from Johnson Mesa west of Folsom in northeastern New Mexico. The river enters the Oklahoma Panhandle near Kenton, then crosses the southeastern corner of Colorado where it flows into Kansas. It then re-enters the Oklahoma Panhandle, again into Kansas, and finally back into Oklahoma where it flows into the Arkansas River at Keystone Reservoir above Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Head East on Hwy 50 towards Gunnison (out of Montrose). Go past the little town of Cimarron (don't blink), make your next right. Public access begins past the National Forest Boundary Sign. Fall is a wonderful time to fish. The days are cooler and the fish are more active getting ready for winter. It is shaping up to be a great fall for fishing with a nice monsoon season waning and the rivers looking good. Don't despair that summer is almost over, that's a good thing...Fall is almost here.
The Cimarron River is a major tributary to the Gunnison River flowing through the Uncompahgre Wilderness and into the big river from the south, just below Morrow Point Dam. There are several ways to reach the Cimarron River basin including a scenic route over Owl Creek Pass from Ridgway. I think the Owl Creek drive is the prettiest in the state. Many scenes from True Grit were shot on location near here. You will be amazed by the diversity of landscapes, from alpine tundra to majestic spires, pinnacles and castles blocking the sun to dark, green forests carpeting steep mountains. And water, water everywhere.
Most of the lower Cimarron is private and off limits to the public but three miles of water above where it enters the Gunnison are open to fishing. There is some nice water below Silver Jack Reservoir running alongside the campgrounds on forest service road 858 but not as much solitude as you might want. (Big Cimarron Campground, 18 sites, no water, pit toilets.)
Flyfishers need to concentrate instead on the forks of the Cimarron where the swift waters hold lots of rainbow and brook trout (and some cutthroats). Anglers can cast flies to pocket water, smooth glides, riffle after riffle, and work from head to tail an occasional pool. The fish are rarely big, maybe 14-16 inches tops, more like 9-12 inches on average, but the rivers are fun to wade, built for dry flies and you won't be casting shoulder to shoulder with other fishermen. Both the Middle and West Forks have good road access from forest roads while reaching the balance of the East Fork requires hiking a streamside trail (TR 228). The East Fork runs through a green, grand valley from its headwaters. There is a loop trail which connects the two streams (TR 227).
The West Fork Cimarron River has cascading waterfalls and handsome scenery. You can see Wetterhorn Peak (14,015 feet) to the southeast. To the north, the Owl Creek Pass area and Chimney Rock and other rock pinnacles and precipitous peaks dominate the view. There are good roads which follow the stream (forest service road 858 also known as Owl Creek Pass Road and forest service road 860) as well as a nice trail (TR 226), the West Forks Trail, which follows it for some time. Some of the pools up by Owl Creek Pass have some small and plump but skittish cutthroat trout.
Elevation: 6,750 feet to 12,960 feet.