Roaring Fork Conservancy

Hunter Baar


Results are in from testing done after a release of water from Grizzly Reservoir last month turned the Roaring Fork River a dirty yellow.

The discoloration happened in mid-August after a dam problem forced the release of between 10 and 20 acre feet of water from Grizzly Reservoir on Independence Pass. The water flowed into Lincoln Creek and eventually into the Roaring Fork River. It raised alarm because of its color.

Cornelia Carpenter

Bugs and wildlife are benefiting from higher-than-normal rivers in the Roaring Fork watershed. Heavy rain and snowmelt have boosted flows to flood stage in some areas. It’s positive for the river ecosystem.

River flows are above average on the Roaring Fork, Frying Pan, Crystal and Colorado rivers. It’s good news for water quality and wildlife habitat along the riverbanks. The flows knock away dirt buildup in the spaces between rocks on the riverbed. Rick Lafaro with the Roaring Fork Conservancy says that’s where bugs live.

Roaring Fork Conservancy

  Cattle Creek has a problem. The stream crosses under Highway 82 at the Cattle Creek intersection southeast of Glenwood Springs, and there are signs it’s not healthy. Heather Lewin is Watershed Action Director with the Roaring Fork Conservancy. The organization recently started a study to figure out what’s wrong in the creek. Aspen Public Radio’s Elise Thatcher talks with Heather Lewin.

Marci Krivonen

After a dry start to the year, the month of March brought much needed moisture to the Aspen region. 

West Slope Back On Drought Index

In the dry month of January, snowpack levels in nearly every river basin in Colorado declined. In the Roaring Fork Valley, not only did the amount of snow diminish but drought conditions returned. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday puts the Western Slope in the “abnormally dry” category, including the majority of Eagle and Pitkin Counties and all of Garfield County. “Abnormally dry” is the least severe of five categories.

Marci Krivonen

A Basalt-based conservation group is putting some science behind water problems on the Crystal River. A drought in 2012 made clear the need to improve the river’s health, when stream flows dropped to a trickle. 

The problem with the Crystal River that runs through Redstone and Carbondale, is sometimes there’s not enough water and too much dirt. Heavy sedimentation can smother fish and aquatic insects. In 2012, American Rivers named the river one of the most endangered in the country.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy wants to do more than just raise awareness, so it created a management plan. Right now, the group’s gathering data about the riverbed. Heather Tattersall is with the Conservancy.

"So (we’re) making a computerized model of what the Crystal River looks like, as far as where there are pools, where it’s flat, where it’s deep. So we’ll be able to take that model of the river and say, ‘Ok, if we add this much water to it, how much fish habitat do we create? If we take water away from it, where does it get hurt?’"

Once the modeling is complete, the Conservancy may take steps like restoring the river bank or narrowing a river channel.

Creative Commons/Flickr/USFWS Mountain Prairie

Educators in Colorado are taking an inventory of environmental learning and finding gaps where more is needed. A Colorado Environmental Education Plan is being drawn up to evenly spread these kinds of lessons to students across the state...and two local non profits are involved. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Colorado Trout Unlimited

The Thompson Creek watershed that flows through the contested Thompson Divide area, received a special designation this week. On Tuesday, the state’s Water Quality Control Commission approved an “Outstanding Waters” designation for several branches of Thompson Creek, near Carbondale.

To win approval the stream has to meet several high quality standards and, the designation prohibits certain pollutants from being discharged into the water. Aaron Kindle is with Colorado Trout Unlimited, which fought for the designation. He says it protects fish.

Marci Krivonen

A top administrator in the EPA’s Office of Water was in the Roaring Fork Valley on Wednesday, touring local rivers and drumming up interest for a proposed Clean Water Act rule. Acting Administrator Nancy Stoner says the so-called “Waters of the U.S.” rulemaking clarifies what types of waterbodies get federal protection. Before she discussed the rule with local residents, she traveled up the Frying Pan river. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen was along for the ride, and filed this report.

Spring runoff in the Roaring Fork Valley typically starts around this time, in early to mid-April. It peaks later in the spring. This year mountain snow is plentiful and once it melts, river flows are predicted to be higher than average. But, the timing of the melt is important. Aspen public Radio's Marci Krivonen spoke with Sarah Johnson, the Outreach Coordinator for the Roaring Fork Conservancy. She says the snowpack in the Roaring Fork watershed is well above average.