Watson Island Section

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 4544 - 4670 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Usage: Hiking - Biking - Equestrian - Dogs
Time: 1 hr. 45 mins.
Facilities: Flush toilets (Butterfly House and Eagle Rim Park)
Trailhead: Watson Island or Eagle Rim Park
Fee: none
Attractions: Paved trail, wildlife, gift shop
 

View Watson Island Section in a larger map

The Watson Island Section of the Colorado River Trail System is adjacent to the Western Colorado Botanic Gardens located near South 7th Street and Struthers Avenue. This section of the trail stretches from Eagle Rim Park, across the river on Orchard Mesa, to the 5th Street Bridge where it transitions into the Riverside Section. There are two short loop trails in the area south of the Butterfly House and Botanic Gardens.


For this post I parked at the Watson Island trailhead, just off Struthers Avenue, to the east of the Butterfly House. You will find the restrooms open at the Butterfly House during their normal business hours.


The Watson Island Section of the riverfront trail seems to go through some type of improvement every year. A lot of work has been put into cleaning up rubble that has been dumped, or left, over the previous decades. The latest big change came from the removal of a large area of tamarisk in the Las Colonias Park which is presently under development.


Following the trail eastward through Las Colonias Park you will notice the old Climax uranium mill building to the north across Riverside Parkway. This is where much of the notorious mill tailings came from that ended up being used as fill dirt in much of the local construction during the 1950's and 1960's. Hopefully all of the tailings have been removed and are now securely buried at the Cheney Reservoir disposal site.


Continuing east the trail comes to a 'T' junction. The trail to the left leads over to C 1/2 Road where you can connect up with the Corn Lake Section of the riverfront trail. Taking the trail to the right at the junction will take you across the Colorado River on the Old Mill Bridge. In the summer time an almost endless parade of rafters can be seen at times floating under the bridge being lazily conveyed downstream by the river. I have made the trip myself on several occasions. While the float seems harmless enough there are areas that require careful attention. One such spot is just downstream where the natural flow of the current will pin the unsuspecting rafter against the river bank beneath the bushes and trees that over grow the water. The sharp branches can shred most any single wall craft or brush the rider right out of their canoe. The rescue teams are very familiar with spots such as these.


Eagle Rim park is located at the top of the hill. This point is about 1 mile from the Watson Island trailhead. The trail loops around the park passing several monuments along the way. There is a building with flush toilets located in the middle of the park.


One monument of interest makes mention of the Grand Crossing of the Old Spanish trail just upstream where the Old Spanish Trail crossed the then named Grand River. It always seems of significant interest when you can pinpoint such historical locations and preserve them as much as possible for future generations to reflect upon.


Heading back down the trail from Eagle Rim park the trail gently descends back to the Old Mill Bridge. A similar bridge is presently under construction just east of 32 Road in the area of the Clifton Section of the riverfront trail.


There are several park benches along the trail where you can relax and enjoy the surroundings.


A footbridge connect Watson Island with the mainland.


The riparian environment of Watson Island provides a natural beauty that separates your soul from its daily burden of worries.


Back at the trailhead you might enjoy a visit to the Botanical Garden. Within the greenhouse structure is a rain forest type garden and a butterfly house. In the outer gardens are many local plants and shrubs with identifying plaques to help make you familiar with the local fauna. You might also check out the wildflower section of this site which has an extensive catalog of its own. The Watson Island Section of the riverfront trail can be a relaxing hideaway in the midst of the city. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.