December 18, 2020

Central Colorado Conservancy, Salida
Trout Unlimited, Collegiate Peaks Chapter
EcoMetrics, Buena Vista
Round River Design, Salida
Supported by: Gillilan and Associates, Buena Vista

Purpose and scope

This study is a holistic riverscape health assessment of a 1.9 km reach of the South Arkansas River from County Road 107 to the confluence with the Arkansas River east of Salida. The purpose is threefold:
(1) to demonstrate the use of a holistic riverscape health assessment in stream management planning,
(2) to identify potential opportunities to restore or conserve stream health and function, and
(3) to provide a rational basis for restoration and/or conservation plans.

Executive Summary

This study is a holistic stream health assessment of the South Arkansas River. It builds upon prior work by the South Arkansas Watershed Coalition to identify conservation and restoration potential on the 1.9 km reach through Salida from County Road 107 downstream to the confluence with the Arkansas. This reach is highly modified for past and current land and water uses. Flow regime is significantly diminished due to upstream water diversions. The stream is channelized and often deeply entrenched. Most of stream corridor was converted for ranching and agriculture in the 1800s which is also when the major roads, and rail lines were built across it. Nowadays, the 150-year-old valley-bottom ranching uses are giving way to urbanization. Most of the riverscape has become incrementally constrained by infrastructure and development, leaving less room for ecosystem function. In its static and greatly simplified state, with a shrunken corridor, narrowed floodplain, and diminished flows, riverscape health and resilience are waning. Composite stream health scores on the reach range from C (significantly impaired) to D+ (severely impaired).

Opportunities to improve stream health and resilience depend upon the ability to reverse or mitigate these impacts, the causes of impairment, to restore natural ecosystem processes and give back some space where these processes can operate. The best prospect for meaningful improvement is on the segment of the old Vandeveer Ranch owned by the City of Salida plus the adjacent private properties up- and downstream. Land use on this section of the stream corridor has moved on from historical industrial-scale ranching, the stream is much less entrenched and beginning to recover naturally, and most of the direct causes of impairment can be practically and feasibly mitigated. Past levees and cross-valley road fills can be removed to reverse the impacts of channelization, entrenchment, and floodplain disconnect; and with improved hydrology native riparian vegetation and wetland can be reestablished. Simple treatments can be applied to promote natural fluvial processes such as sediment capture, scour, structural complexity, and riparian forest regeneration. In short, this segment provides a rare opportunity where natural stream ecosystem processes may occur over a broader portion of the historical riverscape without threatening infrastructure or infringing on property owner’s needs. Conservation and process-based restoration of the riverscape aligns well with landowner values of increased natural habitat, floodplain function, open space, recreation, and environmental education. On other segments where stream functions are constrained by land use, development, or infrastructure, marginal stream health gains or limited enhancement benefits might be possible using costly engineering-based or artificial approaches.

Click here to access the detailed report (37 pages).

The Chapter is always happy and thankful to receive donations throughout the year. We thank these generous supporters for their recent contributions:

December 2020:

  • Al & Pam Simpson
  • Carolyn Miller
  • Cary Carlson
  • Charles Kenney III
  • Dennis Hunter
  • Dunkly DeCew
  • Georgianna Rutherford Estate
  • Henry & Ann Klaiman
  • Jerry Wright
  • Karen & Reed Dils
  • Lynn Banks
  • Lynn Schultz-Writsel
  • Policky Aquatics
  • Tom Arnot

January 2021:

  • Ken Wool
  • Tim Klco / Peak Solar Designs
How long have you been a TU member? 

Can’t remember exactly when I joined, but for several years. When I was in Colorado Springs several years ago, I was a member of the Pikes Peak Flyfishers and then migrated to supporting TU in addition.

Are you a chapter board member and/or officer?

I am a newly elected Board member of the CPCTU and am looking forward to especially outreach to other conservation and sportsmen organizations.

What drew you to joining TU? 

All my life I have been involved some way with conservation and natural resource management. I have supported organizations like TU because of the lobby efforts on behalf of our natural resource management and stewardship. TU is one of the leaders in conservation across the country and that is very important to me. TU is a hands on organization with its many projects and mentoring to our youth. In addition, being involved in TU allows me to interact with our agencies, the public, and other sportsmen that care about the stewardship and management of our fantastic resources.

I am also impressed with the quality people in this organization and the amount of volunteer time that I have seen contributed. The folks in this organization are top notch.

When did you move to the valley and join CPC? 

I own recreational property south of Buena Vista and come and go throughout the year. I reside in Douglas County with my wife.

I have been coming to the Arkansas Valley since the 1980’s. I joined CPC several years ago and I am involved in another chapter in Denver.

Where are you originally from, and what do you do for a living?

I am a Dakota kid and graduated from the U. of Minnesota with a forestry degree. After college I eventually migrated to Colorado Springs where I spent most of my career as the City Forester for the City of Colorado Springs. During that period I also attained a M.S. from U.C.C.S. After ending my career as a municipal employee, I started to concentrate more on my forestry/landscape consulting business, which I have done since the 1980’s.

What section of the Arkansas do you think fishes best, and when?

I believe any section of the Ark fishes best if you are “catching”. The river system from Hayden Meadows to the Gorge is wonderful. I prefer fishing in areas as far from the road as I can, which involves lots of hiking. I have caught fish in the Ark at all times of the year. I especially like March-May, then later in the summer (when it is not so hot) and into the late fall. I am mainly a nymph fisher, combined with the Euro nymphing I am getting into.

What is your favorite Ark River fly? 

I believe the Blue Wing Olive dry, the pheasant tail, and the prince nymph are pretty good bets most times of the year.

Other Info about me

I was involved in the Envision Chaffee initiative when it started about 4 years ago. Since that time, the initiative was successful at passing the sales tax in 2019 that is earmarked for recreation and forest health. I continue to offer my input as needed from a forester’s perspective. I hope to continue that effort as it relates to many of the initiatives CPC is involved in.

In 2018 and 2019 I was supported by CPC when I was applying for a position on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. As I was not appointed, I will continue to pursue avenues such as this to become as effective as I can in the name of natural resources management.
I also serve as a director on a water and wastewater board in Douglas County.