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C o l o r a d o F o u n d at i o n f o r W at e r E d u c at i o n | S p r i n g 2 0 0 6

From Peak to Prairie, Colorado’s Water Makes the Scene

An Avian Oasis Gunnison’s Whitewater Park Fly Fishing Snowmaking




Colorado Foundation for Water Education 1580 Logan St., Suite 410 •  Denver, CO 80203 303-377-4433 • Mission Statement

The mission of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education is to promote better understanding of water resources through education and information. The Foundation does not take an advocacy position on any water issue. Staff Karla A. Brown Executive Director Jeannine Tompkins Office Coordinator

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the go to ch o t u e ,s av . park n’t h u do a water mer day o y t m — a s u s rop ernoon e any ng d t oppi ls. An af little tast t s t r a l i e r a h h s, r the t ve you i river lazy River fo s, can g , s d t i o h p d g a a i r ter e Color eral He ewa h d Whit sas or t rld in Fe n Arka ater Wo On the Cover: as W A lone hiker ascends in the Wenimuche Wilderness in southwestern Colorado. Named for a band of Utes, it is Colorado’s largest wilderness and primitive area. Photo by Eric Wunrow

President Diane Hoppe State Representative 1st Vice President Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr. Colorado Supreme Court 2nd Vice President Matt Cook Coors Brewing Company Acting Secretary Wendy Hanophy Division of Wildlife Treasurer Tom Long Summit County Commissioner Assistant Treasurer Chris Rowe Division of Minerals & Geology

Letter from the Editor.......................................................... 1

At Large Taylor Hawes Colorado River Water Conservation District

In the News......................................................................... 2

Rod Kuharich Colorado Water Conservation Board

CFWE Highlights.................................................................. 4

Becky Brooks Colorado Water Congress

Gunnison’s Newest Recreational Park................................ 5 Fly Fishing............................................................................ 8 An Avain Oasis................................................................... 12 Let it Snow......................................................................... 15 Legal Brief.......................................................................... 18 Order Form......................................................................... 20

Trustees Steve Acquafresca, Mesa Land Trust Rita Crumpton, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District Kathleen Curry, State Representative Lynn Herkenhoff, Southwestern Water Conservation District Jim Isgar, State Senator Ken Lykens, MWH Americas, Inc. Frank McNulty, Colorado Dept. of Natural Resources John Porter, Colorado Water Congress John Redifer, Colorado Water Conservation Board Rick Sackbauer, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District

Headwaters is a quarterly magazine designed to provide Colorado citizens with balanced and accurate information on a variety of subjects related to water resources. Copyright 2006 by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. ISSN: 1546-0584 Lori Ozzello Managing Editor | Design by Emmett Jordan Acknowledgements The Colorado Foundation for Water Education thanks all the people and organizations that provided review, comment and assistance in the development of this issue.

Robert Sakata, Sakata Farms Gerry Saunders, University of Northern Colorado Reagan Waskom, Colorado State University

Eric Wunrow


The Thin Green Line It may seem somewhat of a subtlety that most of our recreation in this arid state revolves around water—frozen, flowing or otherwise. Whether it be man-made entertainment like kayak parks and ski pistes, tests of skill between the angler and his catch, or quiet observation of the incredible journey of thousands of migrating birds, our water resources allow us an impressive quality of life that cannot always be tabulated on a spreadsheet. River corridors are also natural centers of biodiversity whether on the plains or in the mountains, attracting people and wildlife alike. It makes up what the Colorado Riparian Association refers to as “the green line.” Historically, it is where we have built our cities, factories and farms. In our busy modern lives, it can be easy to forget the intricacies and unique rhythms of this natural world. But thanks to the foresight of President Theodore Roosevelt, his forester Gifford Pinchot, and others who first organized to advocate for the sustainable use of forests, soils and water, Coloradans now have a wonderful playground of public lands to enjoy. Water dedicated to recreation is not a new concept in Colorado. The state has long recognized water rights for snowmaking, fish and wildlife culture, as well as releases from storage for boating and fishing flows. Since 1907, the U.S. Supreme Court has also upheld numerous implied federal reserved rights for a variety of national parks, monuments, and other federal reservations. But as the state’s water resources become spread ever more thinly between people and the environment, scrutiny of how this water is shared has become ever more intense—witness the recent debate over recreational in-channel diversions. This issue of Headwaters has both a serious and playful side. I hope it serves to remind readers of all the wonderful resources Colorado has to offer, as well as the utmost seriousness with which we debate their future.

Karla Brown Editor and Executive Director

H e a d w at e r s | s p r i n g 2 0 0 6

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2006 AWRA Annual Symposium

Colorado Water Supply Issues—Today and Tomorrow DENVER—The American Water Resources Association (Colorado Section) is pleased to announce its annual symposium Friday April 14, 2006. Co-sponsored by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, the symposium will focus on innovative water management strategies in Colorado and the West. Symposium topics include: • Climate and Steamflow • Current Water Projects and Infrastructure Protection • Meeting Future Water Demands and Water Management Innovations • Colorado River Negotiations: Comprehensive management of the river

A highlight will be luncheon speaker Mark Cowin, Chief of the Division of Planning and Local Assistance with the California Department of Water Resources. He will discuss the lessons learned from the recently updated California Water Supply Plan. The symposium will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Mt. Vernon Country Club in Golden, Colo. A reception will follow. To register, go to the AWRA Web site at http://awra. org/state/colorado/ or call (303) 455-9589. The early registration deadline is April 1, 2006. CFWE members receive a $15 registration discount. With additional questions, contact the Foundation at (303) 377-4433.

New Web Site Offers Synopsis of Ground Water in Colorado

CGS geologists Peter Barkman (2nd from left) and Ralf Topper (3rd from left) accept the 2005 Burwell Award from Dave Noe (left) and Robert Fakundiny at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City on Oct. 17, 2005.

Since its publication by the Colorado Geological Survey, the Ground Water Atlas of Colorado has received tremendous recognition and acclaim by professional organizations, water managers, educators, politicians, and the public. Most recently, authors Ralf Topper, Karen L. Spray, William H. Bellis, Judith L. Hamilton, and Peter E. Barkmann received the Geological Society of America’s 2005 E. B. Burwell, Jr. Award from its Engineering Geology Division, recognizing this distinguished contribution to the sciences. The Colorado Geological Survey has now developed a Web site that features a synopsis of the atlas. Like the original publication, the Web site contains introductory chapters on the state’s ground water resource, as well as specific discussions on each of the state’s major aquifers. In addition, the Web site contains the complete glossary, and allows viewers to download highresolution graphic files. A synopsis of the Ground Water Atlas of Colorado can be viewed at

A New Approach to Managing Water—Statewide DENVER—In 2005, the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act created a new forum for discussing the state’s water issues. Spearheaded by the Department of Natural Resources, this statewide collaborative initiative, also called the Interbasin Compact Process, is being billed as a new approach to managing water. The decision-making bodies in this process are nine basin roundtables and a 27-member Interbasin Compact Committee. The roundtables, representing each of the state’s eight major river basins and the Denver metro area, will work to develop a basin-wide consumptive and nonconsumptive

water supply needs assessment, analyze available unappropriated waters within the basin and suggest projects to meet the basin’s water needs. The statewide committee will address issues between basins. More information about the roundtables and the IBCC, including progress reports, program statistics, and detailed information on the Interbasin Compact Process are available at the Department of Natural Resources Web site http://dnr. For additional information, contact the Interbasin Compact staff at

C o l o r a d o f o u n d a t i o n f o r W a t e r E d u c a t i o n

in the


Curtis to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award DENVER—Ralph Curtis, a longtime water and soil conservationist, will receive the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wirth Chair in Environmental and Community Development Policy at an April 12 luncheon in Denver. This program is conducted through the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will offer opening remarks, the Honorable Tim Wirth, President of the United Ralph Curtis Nations Foundation, will be the featured speaker, and the Honorable Gary Hart who holds the Wirth Chair, will offer closing remarks. In announcing the award, Kathleen Beatty, dean of the Graduate School of

Public Affairs said of Curtis that, “The San Luis Valley and all of Colorado are in his debt. From service as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, to his work with the Cattlemen’s Association, to his long relationship with the Colorado Association of Soil Conservation Districts, he has been tireless in making us aware of the importance of caring for the natural world.” Curtis is a native of the San Luis Valley, where in 2000 he was named by his community as one of the valley’s “Most Influential People of the 20th Century.” Among his many board roles and contributions, Curtis’s service as the Vice President of the Rio Grande

Headwaters Land Trust and as a member of the San Luis Valley Wetlands Focus Area Committee has been of great value to both organizations’ current and on-going conservation successes. His statewide efforts for water sustainability and as a board member of the Colorado Water Congress since 1983 were recognized with the Wayne Aspinall Water Leader of the Year Award in 2004. Curtis will receive his award at the 9th Annual Wirth Chair Awards Luncheon, April 12, 2006, noon-2 p.m. at the Denver City Center Marriott, 1701 California Street, Denver. The award is the highlight of the Chair’s Annual Sustainability Awards where statewide media, community, and business efforts fostering sustainable principles are honored. Tickets are $30 per person. For information or to RSVP, call (303) 352-3764.

Water Leaders 2006 DENVER—The Colorado Foundation for Water Education would like to congratulate the 14 successful applicants to the first-ever 2006 Water Leaders Course. This year-long program will provide extensive leadership training, including self-assessment opportunities, training in conflict resolution, communication, negotiation, and other leadership skills necessary to future success. Participants will also receive one-on-one mentoring with established water leaders, coaching sessions with professional executive coaches, and the opportunity to attend several of the state’s major water conferences and symposia, including the 48th Colorado Water Congress Convention in Denver and the 31st Colorado Water Workshop in Gunnison. The staff of LeaderExcellence Net, a consulting group specializing in leadership training and executive coaching, is conducting the course. This program is the first of its kind in Colorado, creating a unique platform to help prepare this crop of talented professionals to take a lead in the water management challenges of the 21st century.

Congratulations to: Jacob Bornstein, Colorado Watershed Network John Carney, Colorado Water Trust Alexandra Charney, Boulder County Parks and Open Space Jeff Crane, Crane Associates, LLC Greg Dewey, City of Loveland Emily Hunt, City of Thornton Tom Iseman, The Nature Conservancy of Colorado Amy Johnson, Aqua Engineering, Inc. Mary Presecan, Leonard Rice Engineering, Inc. Richard Raines, Applegate Group Mark Shively, Registered Investment Advisor Kenney Smith, Dolores Water Conservancy District Alan Ward, Board of Water Works of Pueblo Mike Wilde, Roaring Fork School District, RE-1 And we thank all the CFWE supporters who helped make this program possible!

H e a d w at e r s | s p r i n g 2 0 0 6



AquaNotes: Just the facts, briefly In response to the needs of busy decision-makers looking to better understand water issues, CFWE created AquaNotes—briefing papers on important water issues. In 2004-2005, the Foundation created four new AquaNotes on topics such as the Colorado River, recreational in-channel diversions, augmentation plans, and more. Additional titles are also under development. These double-sided, black and white sheets give basic factual infor-



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mation and respond to frequently asked questions on pressing water issues. They even provide a section with “talking points” highlighting main facts from the text. AquaNotes are available free of charge and may be downloaded from the Foundation’s Web site or by calling the Foundation.


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Citizen’s Guide to the Environmental Era

Michael Lewis

The Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Environmental Era is the second history-related guide in the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s on-going citizen’s guide series. As a followup to the Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Water Heritage, our authors extend the history timeline to recent years, what we have labeled “the environmental era.” This project draws together the expertise of prominent historians and scholars from throughout Colorado and the West. Their essays show how recent decades and the environmental movement have shaped Colorado’s culture, communities and landscapes. History serves to remind us that our cultural and social bearings are constantly shifting, sometime imperceptibly, other times at pivotal moments Concern for the environment comes out of a long tradition of preservation and conservation in the United States. Around the turn of the century, the establishment of Yellowstone Park and the Conservation Movement of President Theodore Roosevelt marked some of the first organized advocacy for the sustainable use of forests, soils and water. The modern American environmental movement has built itself of these conservationist and preservationist roots—as well as on a mound of paperwork. We hope that you will find these essays insightful and informative. Copies of the guide are $8 each, or $6 each if ordering 10 or more. To order, visit the Foundation’s Web site at or call the office at (303)377-4433.

C o l o r a d o f o u n d a t i o n f o r W a t e r E d u c a t i o n

By Erin McIntyre

Gunnison’s Developing Relationship With Its Newest Recreational Park

To most people driving on U.S. Highway 50 west of Gunnison, the stretch of water just west of town near the Twin Bridges is just another fast-moving section of the Gunnison River. Even a trained eye might have a hard time telling that beneath the water’s surface are hundreds of boulders strategically placed to make a whitewater park. On spring and summer afternoons, tourists might observe brightly colored kayaks bobbing in and out of the waves, and applaud Gunnison for its recreation-friendly community. What is not apparent to casual observers are the hours invested in legal wrangling and community dialogue that went into building the park and obtaining the water right necessary to give this park a priority over some of the other future water uses in the valley. Outside of the courtroom and beyond the water board meetings, the results of this hard-fought battle beg the question: How does the Gunnison community feel about its new recreational hotspot? Making Sense of It All By the time the park was built, most of the community was in favor of the project, says George Sibley, a professor at Western State College and organizer of the annual Gunnison Water Workshop.

Sibley says many locals supported the whitewater park because they thought gaining a water right for the park assured that the water could not be diverted to the Front Range. In the past, water developers have eyed the Gunnison River basin for projects such as Union Park, a proposed 1.2 million acrefoot reservoir. Although Union Park’s proponents lost a Colorado Supreme Court battle in 1998, when the court declared there was not enough water for the project, many locals still fear losing water to transmountain diversions. “Frankly, that was a major reason for getting local support for it,” says Sibley. “It assures the water will have to be in the river at least for that far.” But not everyone in Gunnison agrees. Rikki Santarelli, former Gunnison County attorney and commissioner, was on the commission when the county decided to build the park on its own land, and supported the effort. Now Santarelli feels that

the park’s water rights may actually hurt the valley in the long run by hindering residential and other development upstream. He says if Front Range communities want water from the Gunnison Basin, a kayak park won’t stop them because they have more political clout and money than the small mountain town. What the kayak park hinders, says Santarelli, is development in the Gunnison Valley that could benefit the community. “(The whitewater park) is kind of at the bottom of the valley,” says Santarelli, who has some clients who are developers. “So, everybody who wants to make any change in the water right above that kayak park has to come up with a way to augment the stream. Under Colorado law, junior water right holders are allowed to use water out of priority, but they must replace, or augment, what was used with the same quantity and suitable quality of water. An augmentation plan identifies how, where

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A whitewater park without any water won’t attract many boaters, a situation which inspired the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District—to file for recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) water rights for the whitewater park in 2002. An RICD water right varies from the traditional “use it or lose it” water right, which typically requires water to be removed from the stream and to be put to beneficial use. In the case of a RICD, the water stays in the stream for recreation. After a lengthy court battle against the State of Colorado and other opponents, a final decree granting the UGRWCD the RICD water rights was issued in January 2006. In the end, the district settled with all the opponents in the case, says Karen Shirley, the conservancy district’s director. Their water rights now allow the whitewater park to call for peak flows of up to 1,200 cubic feet per second in June, with lower flows allowed from May through September.

(the park) as much, we can take that into consideration. We don’t know what the next economic or beneficial use of water will be and it’s very hard to predict the future,” says Shirley. Boulders and Bulldozers Just installing the waterpark in the first place was a bit of an engineering experiment. What lies beneath the water is a series of rock and concrete diversion structures installed by Gunnison County four years ago. They channel the river into surf holes, drops and pools that boaters and kayakers use to stage competitions or just while away a sunny afternoon. “I’ve been working with the park since 2002 and the best way I can describe it is a ‘work in progress,’ ” says Bob Jones with the Todd Crane Center for Outdoor Leadership at

Michael Lewis

The Legal Story

and when the water will be supplied. The law was the legislature’s solution to over appropriation of the state’s rivers. Some feel that is not a reasonable expectation in this case. According to Santarelli, “The water district should do something so that upstream users don’t have to augment the stream to meet that silly kayak course’s (water right). To put a few kayakers in a higher priority than houses or businesses or even touristrelated industries is ridiculous. Suppose somebody wanted to build a resort?” Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District Director Karen Shirley said the district is trying to be flexible and is still learning how to balance the park’s rights with its other constituents’ needs. “I think they all understand this is kind of a work in progress,” says Shirley. “The district is looking at some administrative policies to try to decrease augmentation requirements just for indoor use.” Gunnison Basin water users are accustomed to the concept of augmentation. Generally this means providing an alternate source of water to fulfill senior rights, should senior water users put a “call” for their water on the river. Those filing for water rights after the park’s 2002 priority date would be most affected. New development has to deal with augmentation requirements from most of the basin already, says Shirley. One of the oldest rights belongs to the Gunnison Tunnel, with a 1904 priority date. The tunnel, located about six miles east of Montrose, was one of the first projects the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation undertook. Upstream, junior water users have been “called out” of the river and had diversions curtailed to meet senior rights. Even if augmentation is required, Shirley says there is no lack of development in the Gunnison Valley. “The developers aren’t discouraged,” she says. “It costs them more, but there is not a lack of development above the kayak course.” The whitewater park’s water right decree stipulates the water district will take the rest of the river basin into consideration when placing a call. Shirley says this allows for flexibility, and she anticipates the same flexibility will be required of the district in the future of the course, whatever it evolves into. “If, in 20 years people don’t use

A freestyle kayaker flips on the Arkansas River during the annual Blue Paddle FIBArk Whitewater Festival held in Salida. Western State College. In addition to the water rights battles, those working to construct the park have had to balance issues with the neighboring landowners, the airport, a watertreatment plant and the state transportation department. Proponents have also learned to go with the flow of a construction project involving rushing water, which can shift and change everything without warning. “The process (of creating the park) took a lot longer and was much more expensive than I think the district and the county anticipated,” Shirley says. As of February 2006, the district had invested approximately $475,000 just in legal fees, mediation, and other costs associated with obtaining the park’s water rights. This does not include the amount spent by Gunnison County to construct the park. “The biggest problem and obstacle we had getting the park approved was from homeowners adjacent to the river who were concerned that the features

Michael Lewis

Hundreds of boulders beneath the Gunnison River’s surface create a waterpark for kayakers, and a metaphor for the park itself. Gunnison County and the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District went toe-to-toe with the state and a boatload of opponents to obtain the recreational in-channel diversion water right. The boulders had to be moved in and strategically placed to create the park, and designers say adjustments, fine tuning and revisions will continue, at least for a while.

A kayaker paddles on the Arkansas River, one of Colorado’s most popular for whitewater sports. would cause a bigger icing problem in the spring runoff,” says Mark Gibson, assistant professor of recreation at Western State College. Gibson’s program boasts the secondlargest number of majors on campus, partially because the park helps recruit students, he says.

Constructing and maintaining a whitewater park is an imprecise science. Some say it will require more trial and error, and will continue to change over time. The top structure in the park still isn’t complete says Shirley. Recently, Gunnison County hired engineer and hydrologist Jeff Crane of Crane and Associates in Hotchkiss, to re-build parts of the upstream end of the park, and fine tune other park features. “It does take what I call ‘adaptive management’ to do anything in the river,” says Crane. “(The park) wasn’t designed quite enough to take into account the bend in the river,” he says, adding that one side of the whitewater park is substantially deeper than the other now. “Hydrology is so far from being an exact science that you have to plan on making revisions. You don’t want to force the water to do what it doesn’t want to do,” says Crane, who is also the president of the Colorado Watershed Assembly. Repair to the park’s original features has been problematic. Cold weather iced over the river in November, making work impossible. Crews have a narrow window of opportunity to do the work, between the time when the ice melts and peak runoff arrives. Of primary importance in creating the pools and drops boaters want, is making sure historical diversions along the course still receive the water they are

entitled. Part of Crane’s work involves improving the diversion structure for the 75 Ditch, located near the upstream end of the park. This time of year, his design looks more like a riffle in the river, not an engineered structure, he says. But ultimately, the structure will fulfill two purposes. Buried rocks in the river bottom will create enough of a backwater to divert a full decree of water into the ditch, and he hopes the boulders will also create a little water feature at the top end of the whitewater park. “Is there a wave here? Is there going to be a hole? We don’t know yet because we haven’t had high water yet,” he says. “But I have no doubt it will work well as a ditch diversion and it will work well for the river in the long term.” “Designing water parks is not a hard science,” says Gibson. “You put things in the river and you have to see how it acts.” Regardless of what the final version of the park will be, Crane says collaboration will be necessary for this water park and any others that come along. “This is the future of water use in this state–developing projects that will benefit water users, recreation, storage, agriculture, everyone,” says Crane. “We’re pulling together because there’s a very limited supply of water we have to work with.” q

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Fly Fishing To forget everything else. The paperwork on your desk at the office. The car needs new tires. The boredtill-everyone’s-comatose meetings. The commute. The nuclear meltdown your teenager had yesterday or Monday or whenever. By Lori Ozzello

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Michigan, employs lawyers, lobbyists and other professionals to work with lawmakers at the state and federal levels. Its chapters are also active in conservation issues and work to influence water policy around Colorado. “Water management can be obvious,” Christopherson says. “On the Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir, it’s gotten down to low flow. That used to be an incredible fishery. Irrigators were pulling water and the fish died. When you go there now the flow is low and there are practically no fish. “Because of things like this, TU is working with organizations like Denver Water, so we maintain flows for wildlife and people.” Water quality issues may have slowed development on the Arkansas River, says outfitter Greg Felt. But after a mine waste clean up and improvements, fish are living longer and the Arkansas has become

(river) system,” Colorado Trout Unlimited Executive Director David Nickum says. “You’re no longer a spectator. “There’s an emotional connection. When you’re out there on the water you get so focused on every ripple, every bug, that setting, that place. ” Shane Birdsey agrees. A third generation resident of Mineral County, his dad and granddad taught him how to wet fly fish on the Rio Grande when he was 13. “Fly fishing is not just throwing a worm on a hook,” he says. “You have to read the water, check the wind, keep the fly drag free, mend the line. If you’re tuned in, everything goes away. I tell people who really want to get into this that you gotta pay. They ask how much. I tell them: Time. You have to pay in time. It becomes almost an addiction.” If it’s an addiction, it’s one that’s paying dividends to Colorado in more ways

Michael Lewis (3)

Ask people why they ski or watch birds or kayak or hike or run or hunt and often, the core of the answer is “to forget everything else.” When you ask a fly fisher, she’ll explain there’s an art and science to the forgetting. “You can do it by yourself,” says Karen Christopherson, a native Coloradan, geophyscist and Webmaster of “It’s oneon-one with nature. “I’m looking at the water, the fish, the wind. When you’re on a river, you get exercise at the same time. I don’t know about everyone else. For me, when I’m out there, I forget everything else.” Christopherson isn’t alone in her love for the sport. In 2003, the most recent year the American Sport Association conducted a survey, its economic analysis showed hunting and angling–they’re grouped together—had a $1.3 billion impact in

Shane Birdsey works on an orange simulater fly in his shop, the Ramble House. Fly fishers, center, float on the Arkansas River downstream of Salida. Water quality improvements in the Arkansas have also improved fishing for German brown trout, right. Colorado. In retail alone, people spent $6.9 million on gear and boats. Add in the cost of guides, hotels, food and fuel, and it’s not just a pastime. A 2002 Colorado Division of Wildlife report stated that virtually all of Colorado’s 64 counties reap benefits from wildliferelated activities, which support more than 20,000 jobs around the state. Outfitting for learning and visiting fishers is one facet of the industry. Anglers, along with the state’s own Division of Wildlife, are also involved in protecting rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands. Trout Unlimited’s intent, for example, is to protect and restore fisheries and watersheds. To that end, the organization, founded almost 50 years ago in

a popular spot. “The Arkansas is a fishery on the rise,” Felt said. “There are other marque rivers in the state. As fly fishing became more popular, people ventured further afield. The Ark has 140 miles to fish, healthy brown trout and a lot of public access.” All of the outfitters and anglers talk of their concern about maintaining flows and water quality. The issues, says Felt, are worrisome. “You feel like you’re always losing this battle of a thousand nicks, you lose a little here, a little there and you wake up one morning and it’s all gone,” he says. Caring for the rivers and passion for the sport go hand in hand. “You’re immersing yourself into the

than one. Outfitters and long-time enthusiasts have perspectives on the current and future state of angling. Birdsey owns the Ramble House, a sort of general department store for Creede–everything from hand-tied flies to souvenirs to housewares—along with Creede Guide and Outfitters. Located in Mineral County, the former mining town sits in one of the least populated counties—831 permanent residents—in the state. More than 90 percent of the county is publicly owned. Birdsey offers beginning and intermediate fly fishing lessons, float trips and ladies-only clinics. His fly fishing school season starts at the end of June, just after runoff peaks on the Rio Grande

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guests climb down into a pristine canyon on the East Piedra River, the same place his dad taught him to fish and the same place he’s fished nearly 50 summers since. “They’ll be 30 or 40 fish in the river and they don’t run,” Dilley relates. “It’s like when the mountain men were first here. The fish’ve been there for years. They don’t know what you are. They haven’t seen people so they don’t have that fear.“ While Birdsey, Dilley and Felt

need to enjoy it, too.” Fishing doesn’t have to be elaborate or epic, though, or even particularly expensive. Several years ago, the Colorado Department of Wildlife identified a need in the state—to successfully get youngsters involved in the outdoors one of their parents had to be into, too. Fishing, observes Nickum, often “gets passed from generation to generation” and there are concerns about the sport’s decrease in numbers among the young.

Michael Lewis

and its tributaries. “Fly fishing is a challenge,” Birdsey says. “You’re one-to-one with the fish.” In beginning classes, Birdsey’s company provides all the equipment. Instructors familiarize students with equipment, show them how to get set up to fish, demonstrate basic knot tying and introduce the biology of fly fishing. They talk about where the fish hide out, which insects there are and why each species is where it is. That’s the morning. Next, says Birdsey, come casting lessons. Then the students spend 2-3 hours on the river. Out of the beginners’ classes, he says, a handful of people get hooked, continue and invest in their own equipment. The place he’s seen the increase, though, is among women in their 40s and 50s. “It used to be a man’s sport, but not anymore,” Birdsey says. “A lot of women fished with their husbands. Their husbands tied the flies and did everything for them. Not anymore. The women learn and they do it themselves.” Felt’s seen the same trend, and says that in some says, women are easier to teach because they tend to be better listeners and more receptive to suggestions for improvement. Christopherson caught on to the sport when she was in high school in Boulder. A self-described tomboy, she enrolled in a fly tying class and added fly fishing to the sports she enjoyed. Her profession keeps her outdoors most days where she spends “a lot of time waiting for helicopters.” She fishes while she waits, no matter the time of year. “It used to be I’d see three women in a season,” Christopherson says. “I fish almost every day. Certainly, you see more women now. More classes are available through DOW, and there’s the national program, Women Afield. “And, you see some of the gear, waders and boots are made for women. It’s a gradual thing.” While retailers target a new sports market, she says, women are coming around to the idea of the sport’s attraction. Another Mineral County rancher and outfitter, Billy Joe Dilley, takes summertime guests into the high country to fish in remote streams. His dad gave him his first fishing pole when he was 5. On one of the trips Dilley offers, he and his

Creede Guide and Outfitters guide Rory Ramsay, left, and Ramble House owner Shane Birdsey, right, talk about flies with customer Dale Pizel. Birdsey owns both the 50-year-old Ramble House, a something-foreveryone store in Creede, and the outfitting company, which operates on the Rio Grande. are guiding and teaching, they’re also paying attention to the state of the river, the fish and their surroundings. “Mining and drought have had a major effect up here,” Birdsey explains. “Float trips will be limited this year because we just haven’t had the snow. It will have an effect on insect reproduction, too. “In 2002 when it was so dry, we asked people just to fish in the morning. By afternoon, the water temperature in the river was up to 70 degrees. Even if people were doing catch and release, the stress could cause fish deaths. The water right now in late winter is 32 degrees. That’s a big difference. The increase in temperature also means an increase in bacteria in the water.” Dilley is adamant about preserving the water and land by teaching Colorado residents and out-of-state visitors alike to have as little impact as possible. “It’s here for all of us to enjoy,” says Dilley, “but people 50-75 years from now

Birdsey takes students as young as 8 in his fly fishing clinics. Christopherson notes that anglers would “love to have more kids involved,” especially considering that many people’s fondest memories “are of going fishing when they were kids.” Felt says if you want “to get kids interested, you can’t get impatient or mad. You have to focus on having fun.” Christopherson says she fishes throughout the year. “You can always fish the tailwaters because a dam keeps the water a certain temperature and the fish like that,” she says. “They can feed year around and be happy. And, there are some streams that don’t freeze up totally, like some parts of the lower Poudre and the lower Big Thompson. I went up in late January to Buttonrock Reservoir on a warm day. The fish are still there. It’s a little more challenging, and the weather’s colder. Or, you can fly fish for the warm water species, like wipers or bass.” q

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An Avian Oasis on the Plains by Lori Ozzello Photos by Jon Deloreneo

According to Watchable Wildlife Coordinator John Koshak, 40 percent of visitors stopping at the Lamar Welcome Center and signing its guest book indicate they are visiting the state to watch birds. 12

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From the ground, eastern Colorado’s prairie rivers in late winter are shallow, sandy and slow. Bare cottonwood trees, tall dry grasses and stick-like shrubs line their narrow edges, sometimes the only clues the rivers are there at all. From a migrating bird’s perspective, they look like a Marriott Hotel. The rivers are part of a rich nexus that includes playas and wetlands providing rest, food and refuge for thousands of migrating birds. The eastern plains are part of the Central Flyway, a northto-south route acting as a wide, arterial highway for migratory birds traveling from Texas and Mexico. It follows the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains into Canada and the northwest arctic coast. The plains’ rivers are only half the story, though. According to the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, Colorado’s eastern plains have about 2,500 playas, or small, shallow wetlands that rainfall and runoff periodically fill. The plains’ annual average precipitation is 12 inches or less, so drought-like conditions are common and the playas often dry up.

DOW public information specialist Tyler Baskfield says there’s an advantage to the on-again-off-again playas: Their seasonal fluctuations allow for substantial plant growth, which produces muchneeded seeds for food for waterfowl and migrating birds. “Anywhere you get water out there, you’ll get waterfowl,” Baskfield says. “Wetlands on the eastern plains play a critical role. You’ll see it if you visit a reservoir. You’ll see it around playas, streams and creeks. Lot of times, because of creeks, you get kind of a treat corridor. The cottonwood seeds come down for the birds to eat and the trees provide a great cover for everything from deer on down. Any source of water is sort of a mecca for wildlife on the plains.” Baskfield says there’s another advantage. Unlike Midwestern states that have

plentiful water, the plains’ scarce water supply “sort of narrows things down.” Large mammals—like deer—he says, gravitate toward the same streams as the sandhill cranes. An International Attraction Bird and wildlife watching are among Colorado’s fastest growing tourism sectors. Annually, birders in the state spend $16 million for binoculars and spotting scopes and $37.5 million for commercially-prepared bird food, according to statistics provided by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Wildlife watching alone, in total economic impact, is second only to skiing in the recreation sector. It brings $1 billion annually, according to a 2001 Department of Wildlife study. In the United States, that’s the largest amount by far of any

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state that doesn’t have ocean front prop- scopes, says Baskfield. DOW partners world, as well as Colorado. erty. And, wildlife officers say it isn’t with a variety of agencies and organizaThe prairie chicken festival in Wray unusual to find international visitors who tions to install and maintain the areas. includes a night-before-viewing dinner, tour the state to see specific birds. While watching wildlife maintains its sunrise bird viewing, educational film “This is an urbanized culture,” says popularity, searching for birds continues and after-viewing breakfast. Baskfield. “This is one of the ways peo- to become more popular all the time. After their 4 a.m. wake-up call, visiple want to interact with wildlife.” “We know hunting and fishing bring tors board vans and ride over bumpy The state boasts more than 900 dif- a lot of money into the state, but only roads for a chance to view leks—the ferent species. The variety, says DOW seven percent of the population hunts,” prairie chicken’s gathering and courting Watchable Wildlife Coordinator John says DOW’s Wildlife Watch Coordinator areas—where DOW parks specially fitted Koshak, is due to Colorado’s own diver- Renee Herring. “People pay to go to trailers. Inside the trailers are bleachers sity, going from prairie to high country. Africa just to see birds, not the charis- for the birdwatchers. One side of each In eastern Colorado, Koshak is work- matic megafauna. Birds.” trailer opens, says Herring, “almost like a ing on a project to “loop” viewing trails, Which explains the draw of events hotdog wagon” revealing a window that something like the scenic byways looks out onto the prairie. Visitors signs along state highways. are led in and quietly seated He’s working with public and before the awning is opened. private landowners, the Rocky “At first, you can barely see Mountain Observatory, Colorado outside,” she says. “Then the light Field Orinthologists, Audubon comes up and it’s quiet. The sky Colorado and the Colorado begins to get light. Then you see Department of Transportation, the chickens.” among others, to link 24 counThe males stomp, they dance. ties. The viewing site locations They blow up the orange sacs will be available on the Web and below their beaks. on maps for wildlife enthusiasts After the mating ritual, ranchto follow according to the time ers on whose land the trailers they have, area and season. The are parked serve breakfast to the Web site’s completion is expectvisitors and talk with them about a Prowers County District Wildlife Manager Bryant Will helps a young ed by summer’s end, and the trail birdwatcher sight incoming snowgeese during Lamar’s 4th annual variety of topics, including water loops by the fall. resources, rangeland managefestival in February. Until then, there are other ment and life on the plains. alternatives, such as the existing watch- like the Lamar Snowgoose Festival in late Says Herring: “It was a blast.” q able wildlife stations and a variety of view- February. In its fourth year, the festival ing festivals held in various small towns. drew about 200 people to a weekend of Several plains and mountain towns, Says Baskfield, “Really, all you need workshops and wildlife viewing. including Lamar, Wray, Monte Vista to do is get in the car and go.” Not only did visitors enjoy the return and Walden, host weekend festivals for At a watchable wildlife station near of between 5- and 15,000 snow geese, returning birds. Wray’s greater praiGeorgetown, for instance, DOW installed Koshak says, they also got to see more rie chicken viewing occurs over five permanent viewing scopes for the pub- than two dozen bald eagles and several weekends beginning March 21. Visit lic. At the site just off Interstate 70, visi- other raptors, including rough-legged tors can drop in 50 cents to watch 300 or hawks. The Colorado Division of Wildlife so bighorn sheep bounce from rocky “For some of these people,” says offers free workshops from now through ledge to precipitous foothold on the Koshak, “it’s a life changing experi- August throughout the state to teach opposite mountainside. DOW volunteers ence.” children and adults how to master outstaff the area on weekends. The sheep White-tailed deer were out early door skills. Some offer college credit. are around pretty much all day, every Saturday morning and visitors got to see Visit . day, fall to spring. a great blue heron rookery. Free classes For more about birdwatching, visit: At Windy Gap Reservoir near Highway at the high school covered everything 40, wildlife and birdwatchers can spot bald from Zebulon Pike’s historic odyssey • The Rocky Mountain Bird and golden eagles, a variety of waterfowl across the plains, to how to watch wildObservatory at Barr Lake, and small mammals through permanent life properly.; scopes. The watchable wildlife area there If you missed Lamar, no worries. • Colorado Field Orinthologists, includes a parking lot off the highway There’s more, like the Wray greater; and along with a covered picnic area. rie chicken festival in early April. • The Colorado Birding Trail, The watchable wildlife program has The Wray event, made possible by, existed for about 15 years and boasts a a collaborative effort among the Wray an initiative to link state outcouple hundred areas around the state. Chamber of Commerce, Yuma Historical door recreation sites. Some are simple informational kiosks, Museum, DOW and private landowners, others are blinds, and still others have attracts birdwatchers from around the 14

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L et it Snow By Erin McIntyre

Kevin Moloney

A tiny ski area that operated for just one season 50 years ago introduced snowmaking technology to Colorado, blazing the trail for a tool to fake out Mother Nature and provide economic stability for a $1.5 billion industry. Magic Mountain Ski Area, west of Golden, opened in 1958 and closed in 1959, says ski historian Pat Pfeiffer. Then-new Ski Broadmoor, near Colorado Springs, bought some of Magic Mountain’s used equipment. “Ski Broadmoor was the area that all other ski areas kept a close eye on to see how the new technology worked and if it was profitable,” says Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer, who is also a board member of the Colorado Ski Museum, vividly remembers her first experience with snowmaking in 1960. She and her husband were so excited about Ski Broadmoor opening that they planned a nocturnal ski party on the slopes. After a few good runs, they got back on the lift and “they turned the snow machine on and it spewed out water, drenching all of us who were riding the lift,” says Pfeiffer. “You might say that put a damper on the ski party.” The soaked skiers spent the rest of the adventure inside the warming house trying to dry out, and finally left early. “Never has a hot buttered rum hit the spot more!” says Pfeiffer, who is now in her late 70s. The Broadmoor worked out its problems with the snowmaking equipment and went on to serve skiers for 30 years. Today, the majority of ski areas in Colorado use snowmaking regularly. Even the highest areas, such as Loveland Ski Area at 13,010 feet above sea level, uses snowmaking, and die-hard powder fans know it’s typically the first to open. The ski area’s management is so confident snow enthusiasts will be satisfied with the

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“The problem is going to be having enough water to make snow,”

powder on its slopes–an annual average of 400 inches–it offers a full refund on lift tickets if skiers aren’t happy with the conditions and return their tickets by 10 a.m. “We can’t remember the last time someone took us up on that,” writes Kathryn Johnson, Loveland Ski Area marketing manager, in an e-mail interview. “Frankly, it’s something we’ve kinda phased out just because the snow conditions are always quite adequate.” But even Loveland needs a little help now and then from snowmaking technology to make sure it can uphold that guarantee. It has the ability to make snow on 160 acres and takes advantage of that most years, says Johnson. According to Colorado Ski Country USA, a state ski trade association, only three of its 25 member resorts in Colorado do not make snow today: Monarch, Ski Cooper and Silverton. “Snowmaking is used in Colorado to build a good early-season snow base and to help provide high-quality opening day and early season conditions in the event Mother Nature is a bit stingy,” explains Molly Cuffe, Colorado Ski Country USA spokeswoman, in an e-mail interview. Yet, “only 16 percent of Colorado’s skiable terrain is covered by way of snowmaking capability.” To make snow, three things are necessary: A relative humidity of at least 100 percent, air temperatures equal to or below freezing, and particles called ice nuclei. Snow cannons shoot water into the freezing air, aspirating it. Particles allow ice to form as the compressed air expands and cools through a pro16

cess called adiabatic cooling, says Mark Williams, a fellow at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and a University of Colorado geography professor. “It’s just the opposite of when you’re pumping up a bike tire, the pump gets hot because you’re compressing the air. Here, it’s expanding and it’s cooling off,” says Williams. The result is a denser, wetter snow than Mother Nature’s. While natural snow is fluffier, made of mostly air, artificial snow is heavier and is mostly ice. For example, good, natural champagne powder is about 95 percent air and 5 percent ice, says Williams. Artificial snow is only 30 to 40 percent air, which makes it useful for covering up rocks and tree branches. The pressure of warming climates, Mother Nature’s unpredictability and customer demands have made snowmaking a near-necessity for most resorts. “There’s a really high year-to-year variability in the magnitude of snow,” says Williams. “And snowmaking reduces the uncertainty of the skiing business.” Williams knows how to get excited about really good snow, after running a ski lodge in the Sierra Nevada mountains for seven years. He said the ability to create a good base with artificial snow allows resorts to have a more certain schedule and assure skiers and snowboarders that the runs will open by Thanksgiving, the target opening date for most Colorado resorts. Snowmaking also has evened out the number of skiers across the ski season, meaning there’s less of a push for the slopes immediately after a storm.

“In general, skier days at resorts are not correlated with good snow anymore,” says Williams. “Places like Vail, their market is not based on day-use. Their market is from people coming from Florida, from Europe. People who are really their cash cows are booking their trips in advance.” Statewide, 60 percent of the skiers and snowboarders on Colorado’s slopes are from outside the state, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. Either way, snowmaking helps resorts get a jump start on building a good base at the beginning of the season so they can open. “The time period of skiing when ski areas make their money is not in sync with nature,” says Williams. But for some smaller resorts like Powderhorn Resort on Grand Mesa, 45 minutes away from Grand Junction, snowmaking serves a different function. About 75 percent of its business comes from within 60 miles, says Kathy Dirks, Powderhorn spokeswoman. “Snowmaking may get us open a little earlier, but primarily snowmaking allows us to put down a very dense base at the bottom of the mountain,” writes Dirks in an e-mail interview. “When the weather warms in the spring, that dense base allows us to keep our access to the lifts and base area until we close.” Powderhorn covers 35 acres with its snowmaking and uses it mainly to increase the snow base from mid-November through mid-January. The maximum amount of water it uses, with eight snow guns going at the same time, is 575 gallons per minute. After the season is over, the snow melts and eventually drains to

C o l o r a d o f o u n d a t i o n f o r W a t e r E d u c a t i o n

Kevin Moloney (2)

—Mark Williams, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research

Courtesy of the Colorado Ski Museum

An unidentified businessman takes at turn at early snowmaking at Ski Broadmoor, near Colorado Springs. The resort was the second in Colorado to try out artificial snow after Magic Mountain, an area outside Golden, folded in 1959, after only a year in operation. The Broadmoor purchased Magic Mountain’s snowmaking equipment, says the state’s ski historian, and the idea caught on. streams supplying downstream cities or and ranchers in the Plateau Valley and along the Colorado River. “We like to think of our slopes and snowmaking as a storage area for their summer water,” says Dirks. Snowmaking does require a water right. And ski resorts have invested thousands of dollars obtaining these rights, as well as making sure water will be available when they need it. Vail Resorts, for example, helped construct Black Lakes, a pair of now twice-expanded reservoirs located along Interstate 70 at Vail Pass. Water from these high-altitude reservoirs can now be metered into Gore Creek to supplement low flows caused by snowmaking, or to supply downstream calls for water from senior diverters. It’s an elaborate system, taking water diverted from the stream and pumping it back some three miles up Gore Creek to the location of Vail’s snowmaking intake. So who invented this technology to give Mother Nature a boost? “I have absolutely no idea,” said Williams. He’s heard the different versions of snowmaking’s invention. According to information from the Colorado Ski Museum, snowmaking was developed

in March 1950 by Art Hunt, Wayne Pierce and Dave Ritchey of TEY Manufacturing Corp in Milford, Conn. But other materials from the Broadmoor Hotel indicate that an engineer with a small agricultural equipment firm may have discovered snowmaking in the same year, when he was working on a way to protect citrus crops from early frost. “I’m sure it was some guy who was making five bucks an hour and came up with the idea,” Williams says, laughing. “Some seasonal ski bum.” Williams predicts that in the next 50 to 100 years, snowmaking will become more popular at resorts in lower elevations as climate variations bring less snow. “Lower areas will receive less snow, and not until later in the year,” he says. “Areas like Aspen, Keystone will have to start making more snow. “The ski areas are concerned about that and…they’re hedging their bets. They’re trying to gobble water rights up for that.”

While ski resorts may have the money to invest in water rights, some streams are already over-appropriated. Williams predicts that attempts to take water from high-mountain streams that are at their minimum flows will be very controversial. “The problem is going to be having enough water to make snow,” says Williams. “You end up with questions like, ‘If you take that water and make snow instead of leaving that water in the stream, are you losing more to evapotranspiration?’ Nobody really knows.” q

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Rules Governing Deep Aquifers By Ruth Heide

ALAMOSA—The fate of proposed state rules governing new groundwater withdrawals from the San Luis Valley’s confined aquifer rests in the hands of District Judge O. John Kuenhold. In 1998, the Colorado General Assembly passed House Bill 1011, and Senate Bill 222, passed in 2004, recognizing the valley’s unique hydrology and the need to protect existing water rights and the state’s Rio Grande Compact delivery obligations to downstream states. In response to those pieces of legislation, Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer Hal Simpson promulgated rules governing new groundwater withdrawals on June 30, 2004. But some don’t think the state’s rules are fair, and have been protesting them in water court in Alamosa throughout February and March. Challenging the state’s rules as unconstitutional are the Colorado Association of Home Builders,

San Luis Valley Water Company and Cotton Creek Circles, whose case centers on the “rules governing new withdrawls of ground water in Division 3 affecting the rate or direction of movement of water in the confined aquifer system.” Defending the proposed rules are the Attorney General’s office representing the state; Rio Grande Water Users Association; Rio Grande Water Conservation District; and the Conejos Water Conservancy District. Judge Kuenhold is presiding over the case which went to trial on January 30 and was scheduled to conclude on March 9. The six-week trial included testimony from more than a dozen witnesses testifying on behalf of the state’s rules and a half-dozen witnesses opposing them. Proponents of the rules argue the Valley’s water situation is unique, with a unique hydrologic structure. They also

Eric Wunrow


C o l o r a d o f o u n d a t i o n f o r W a t e r E d u c a t i o n



in San Luis Valley Go to Trial argue that water supplies in the San Luis Valley are over-appropriated, and that ground water management rules are necessary to maintain a sustainable aquifer in the Rio Grande Basin. Opponents argue the rules are unconstitutional, violating individuals’ rights to appropriate water, that water is available in the basin for appropriation, and that new water applications should be given the opportunity to develop augmentation plans rather than replace new withdrawals at a one-for-one ratio as required in the rules. Much of the testimony during the trial focused on the Rio Grande Decision Support System, a comprehensive computer model designed to meet state legislators’ mandate for a specific study of the San Luis Valley’s complex hydrology. This model is expected to be used to calculate the impact of any proposed new withdrawals from the

valley’s aquifers. State witnesses such as Willem Schreüder, who developed the model, testified to its accuracy and reliability while protesters’ witnesses such as groundwater modeling expert Charles Norris testified the model was flawed and unreliable, particularly for predictive purposes. Witnesses including Colorado Division of Water Resources Chief Deputy Ken Knox and Registered Professional Engineer Allen Davey testified the valley’s aquifer systems are currently not in a sustainable condition, and the proposed state rules are necessary to bring the system back into balance. Closing arguments are currently scheduled for Friday afternoon, March 24, in Alamosa. Judge Kuenhold has no specific deadline to render a decision but said he would make a ruling as soon as possible following the conclusion of the trial.

H e a d w at e r s | s p r i n g 2 0 0 6




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H e a d w at e r s | s p r i n g 2 0 0 6



Register The Headwaters Tour June 16-17, 2006 Experience the headwaters of the South Platte and Arkansas rivers firsthand… See a high altitude portion of Colorado on this year’s annual CFWE river tour, June 16-17, which includes visits to the headwaters of both the Arkansas and South Platte rivers. Members of the Legislative Interim Water Committee will join a diverse group of participants, including water professionals, educators and policy makers, for the journey. Expect lively discussions, a raft of information, breathtaking scenery and opportunities for networking. REGISTRATION Tour registration costs are all-inclusive, covering tour transportation, lodging, meals, activities and background materials. Early Registration – Before June 1 CFWE Members $295 single occupancy room $245 double occupancy room Non-Members $335 single occupancy room $285 double occupancy room

Michael Lewis

Late Registration – After June 1 $350 single or double occupancy For registrations forms, call the CFWE offices at (303)377-4433 or download a printable form at

1580 Logan St., Suite 410 • Denver, CO 80203

Headwaters Tour Stops and Topics (subject to change) DAY ONE: Friday June 16 “Trees for Trout” restoration projects on Tarryall Creek Reclamation after the Hayman Burn Denver Water’s South Platte supply system Rafting on the Arkansas River through Brown’s Canyon Reception and overnight in Salida DAY TWO: Saturday June 17 Transmountain diversions Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Climax Mine, Clinton and Eagle Park reservoirs TITLE SPONSOR