Founded in 1851, Manassa is a small town in the southern San Luis Valley, most famous for its former boxing prodigy, Jack Dempsey. There is a historic downtown district with a few shops and restaurants.
The Statutory Town resides at 7,690 feet in Conejos County. While Conejos is the county seat and Antonito is the more popular county town because of its historic railroad, Manassa is actually the most populous municipality. In 2010 it recorded a population of 991.
It’s a farming and ranching community, with a few business including Val’s Place Restaurant, which serves Mexican fare year round. There are no traffic lights in town. The Manassa Post Office has a a zip code of 81141. The town was was incorporated in 1889.
Today, approximately half of Manassa’s residents are of Spanish and Mexican heritage. Migration patterns demonstrate how people from northern New Mexico settled this area in the mid 19th century. Many are the descendants of colonists from the Spanish colonial period beginning in 1598 with Juan de Oñate’s colonization of New Mexico. Most of the other citizens of Manassa are the descendants of the Mormon pioneers who founded Manassa in 1879, and named the town after Manasseh, a son of the Israelite Joseph. Manassa was located a short distance from two ranches purchased by the Mormons from Hispanos on the south side of the Conejos River, across from Los Cerritos.
The selection of the land for the colony was made on the assurance that the railroad would soon be built nearby. However, one year later the railroad bypassed the colony, and instead passed through Romeo, just 3 miles (5 km) to the west.
South of Alamosa, a 74-mile segment of the Rio Grande is one of the country’s eight original rivers to be protected under the National Wild and Scenic River Act. The designated portion flows through the 800-foot-deep Rio Grande Gorge, which abounds with cutthroat trout, in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. WSR protection has allowed the belly of the Rio Grande’s 1,900-mile stretch to remain as wild as it was 50 years ago.
The best time of year to get on the Rio Grande is mid-June to October. The salmon fly hatch typically occurs mid- to late June. Although the hatch may occur during runoff, the water is clear enough to permit dry-fly fishing.
During the summer months you can more easily take advantage of the massive caddis fly hatches that allow the local trout to grow to such a large size. As with all rivers in Colorado you can fish year round, but the best season for fly fishing is definitely that mid-June to October window.
Mid morning to late afternoon offers the best wade fishing, and if you decide to float the lower reaches near South Fork you can fish all day and still land some excellent catches.
Brown trout swim the Rio Grande in incredible numbers, and fish are found everywhere. Browns are particularly fond of holding in deeper water near the banks and under the roots of willows in slow-moving water. In choppy runs about a foot deep trout will hold in the rocks on the bottom, freely rising to dry flies or taking nymphs at any depth. Look for current seams where a slow current passes against a faster one. Good fish can be taken from lies within a rod’s length from where you are standing. Be watchful for hidden deep runs where large nymphs can snare a good-sized brown.
The Rio Grande flows from the San Juan Mountains, then turns to head south in Alamosa. The South Fork officially begins at Wolf Creek Pass, famous for its powder skiing. From here, the river parallels Highway 160, so public access is relatively easy; there are also several US Forest Service campgrounds along the river for this stretch, and much of the Rio Grande is wadeable here.
The river gets bigger between South Fork and Del Norte, and thanks to lack of public access between the two towns, float fishing is a popular choice, though the fishing easement partway between the two towns is occasionally wadeable. If you don’t have an oar-boat (or a friend you can bribe), consider hiring a local guide, who can take you downriver and show you the best spots to fish, along with the perfect flies to use during the time of year you’re there.
The section between South Fork and Del Norte is designated Gold Medal Water, and it’s not hard to see why. Big brown and rainbow trout can’t wait to latch onto flies ranging in size from midges to grasshoppers. Here, you’ll probably want to use a dropper and a dry fly, since the river is considerably deeper than it is upstream. Browns here tend to hold in deeper water near the banks and under willow roots, and are known for not being fussy.
The Rio Grande, known in Mexico as the Río Bravo del Norte or simply the Río Bravo, is one of the principal rivers in the southwestern United States and in northern Mexico. The length of the Rio Grande is 1,896 miles. It originates in south-central Colorado, in the United States, and flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
Rio Grande, Spanish Río Grande del Norte, or (in Mexico) Río Bravo, or Río Bravo del Norte, fifth longest river of North America, and the 20th longest in the world, flows through the state of New Mexico then forming the border between the U.S. state of Texas and Mexico. Rising as a clear, snow-fed mountain stream more than 12,000 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the Rio Grande descends across steppes and deserts, watering rich agricultural regions as it flows on its way to the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville, Texas. The total length of the river is about 1,900 miles.