SOUTH FORK - The Rio Grande Club & Resort in South Fork, Colorado recently hosted six travel, fishing, golf and outdoor recreation writers for a multiday “Stay & Play” event aimed at promoting South Fork, Creede, Del Norte and the San Luis Valley.
The writers arrived Friday, Oct. 18, hailing from as far away as Montana and New Mexico. Others drove in from Denver, Aspen and Del Norte. “This area of Colorado is often overlooked as a tourist destination or a place to live year-round or seasonally,” said Rio Grande Club general manager Todd Small. “But what many people don’t realize is that it’s one of the last affordable places in the state with as much as it has to offer---golf, gold-medal river trout fly fishing, rafting, mountain hiking, cross-country skiing and ATV’ing. And all of it accessible right outside of your back door.”
“We wanted to get South Fork and the surrounding areas on the radar of these writers,” Small added, “to help promote through articles all of the great things that folks who live here know about South Fork.”
The weekend kicked off Friday with a writer’s reception in the club’s fishing lodge. Chef Mat Hooper from the club served up bacon-wrapped shrimp, crab cakes and other appetizers to a crowd of about 60 community leaders, local business owners and club members. Local musician Steven Baxter played for the crowd.
“People came from all over---South Fork, Creede, Del Norte and Monte Vista,” said Rio Grande Club marketing director Ruthanne Johnson. “Everyone was excited to talk up the community, local attractions and quality of life in our area.”
Johnson said she prepared an area packet to help each writer plan their time. Some played golf, some fished, some explored South Fork and Creede and some explored Del Norte, Penitente Canyon and the Sand Dunes. “The goal was to provide them with the information and then let them loose to explore,” Johnson said.
The 8200 Mountain Sports owner Joel Condren in South Fork took several of the writers fly fishing. “[We] had a great Saturday fishing The Rio Grande Club section of the river,” said Condren. “The morning was beautiful with lots of trout landed. It was great showing these outdoor writers just how special autumn fly fishing can be around South Fork.”
Many community members helped make the weekend possible. “It really was a concerted effort,” Johnson said.
Local residents Joe Ford and Dennis Green, mortgage bankers with Network Funding, helped organize events and created a promotional video showing the golf course and South Fork community. The video was shown Friday evening at the fishing lodge and is currently playing in the clubhouse lobby. “It was a lot of fun … and I was very proud to be part of it all,” said Ford.
Several townhome owners with on-course rentals available through River Club Vacation Rentals and Rio Grande Vacation Rentals donated the writer’s accommodations. The Rio Grande Club, Tiny Timbers Restaurant, Mountain Pizza, Mountain Lighthouse & Gallery, Creede Repertory Theater and Steffens & Company Realty contributed items for welcome baskets. Local Realtor Connie Goodnight showed properties along the course. And a couple of club members even opened up their homes for tours.
On Saturday evening, the club turned off the lights after dinner service for an evening of stargazing with Mark Teders from the South Fork Visitors Center. Just across the putting green, Ford and Green cooked up s’mores in the firepit for dessert.
Golf writer Todd Hartley with Colorado AvidGolfer magazine stated in an email that he was impressed by the community. “I liked how the Rio Grande Club and the rest of town seem to have a very harmonious relationship. It’s a bond that a lot of clubs don’t have with their towns, and it’s something everyone at the club and in South Fork should be proud of.”
Hopes are high that the visiting writers will produce articles about their trip. “My hope for the weekend is to get some [media] exposure for fall fishing and other recreational opportunities, such as hiking, ATV riding, biking, etc.,” Condren said. “I really felt like everyone involved was surprised at how wonderful it is here this time of year.”
Hartley was awe-struck with the area. “There are few places I’ve visited that can hold a candle to the Upper Rio Grande Valley when it comes to scenery and physical gifts. From being able to hit the slopes at Wolf Creek in a half-hour to having the Great Sand Dunes less than an hour and a half away, South Fork is at the heart of some of the most amazing topography in the U.S.”