View from above

Garrett Fisher's photos show Colorado's amazing landscape

This photo from Garrett Fisher’s book “Where the Colorado River is Born” shows the Colorado River winding its way past De Beque, top left, as it flows toward De Beque Canyon and then to the 
Grand Valley before it leaves Colorado.

The Colorado River is born here, high in a meadow in the lap of Rocky Mountain National Park. 
This photo is from Garrett Fisher’s book “Where the Colorado River is Born.”

Author and adventurer Garrett Fisher stands next to the 1940s-era Piper PA-11 he flew while taking photographs for his two latest books. The plane once belonged to Fisher’s grandfather.

Putting a label on Garret Fisher is much like reading his books: There is more to see than meets the eye.

Fisher last year published two books: “Above the Summit: An Ancient Airplane Conquers Colorado’s Fourteeners” and “Where The Colorado River is born.”

These are not simply handsome books but photographic treatises on what makes Colorado unique.

That the photos were made by Fisher while flying a 1940s-era two-seater Piper Cub, buffeted by winds, altitude and sub-freezing temperatures, only adds to the books’ allure.

“The 14ers project was an exercise in mental agility and determination,” said Fisher with a laugh, talking via phone from Alpine, Wyoming, where he moved two weeks ago. “At times I really felt like I was fighting the highest limits of flying without oxygen and I was literally freezing to death.”

But the effort culminated in a book that lays bare all of Colorado’s highest peaks from a rarely seen vantage, one that combines the view of a soaring eagle with the intimacy of standing on the peak itself.

The book about the Colorado River traces its run from a high-country meadow in Rocky Mountain National Park to where the river crosses the Utah border.

It’s a bit of travelogue, for sure, but the “why” of the book is even more compelling than the “where.”

“My purpose behind the river book is make a contribution to the ongoing water discussion,” Fisher said. “I thought a piece of the discussion was missing. If I could show people where their water comes from and where it’s going, they might treat it differently.”

This interplay of view and vision is where the two books intertwine.

The Fourteeners book reveals not only stunning shots of the Colorado high-country but also lays out the backbone of the state, whence most of our water comes.

And having that view reveals many unexpected things, Fisher said.

“Once you’re up there, there’s always something to see,” he said. “The things you see from the air leave me scratching my head all the time. People build the biggest crosses in the craziest place where no one can see them, and there are these pools of glowing green ‘something’ between Parachute and Palisade.

“And there is an abundance of teepees around the Colorado river basin.”

Which leads back to the river book.

“To me, this environment seems very brittle,” Fisher said. “The fact that we could have 600 inches of snowfall in one spot and three miles away it’s sagebrush and desert.”

Fisher’s bird’s-eye view came from the seat of his Piper
PA-11, an early variant of the Piper J-3 Cub, one of the industry’s workhorses.

Fisher,  who spends his work hours doing financial consulting, is the third generation of his family to fly the plane, which initially was purchased by his grandfather.

“My grandfather loved this plane and kept it in perfect shape,” Fisher explained. “This is a rare in-between model from the 1940 class, a transition to the Super Cub, the Alaska bush plane.”

With 17 years of flying behind him, Fisher flew the plane cross-country to his new home in Alpine.

“It took me two and a half days to go 2,700 miles, about a third faster than driving,” he noted. “My plane gets slightly better gas mileage than my truck but it’s not by any means comfortable.

“After by six hours of flying my knees scream at me.”

The books, both of which are available online ( and at book retailers, are Fisher’s way of helping people make knowledgeable decisions on resource use.

“My whole mission is to show how beautiful Colorado is and where its water comes from and where it goes,” he said. “I don’t like to come out and say people should or shouldn’t do something, I think people do best when they make a informed decision.

“People need to know where their resources come from and they will make a decision about it.”

More information and Fisher’s blog can be found at


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