In 2013, the Watershed Council began a second project along Red Dirt Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. Throughout the year and into 2014, the Watershed Council, USFS, Trout Unlimited, and volunteers planted willows, installed water savers and removed a dirt road that was adding sediment to the creek and harming the native cutthroat trout population.
East Fork Red Dirt Creek meets the Colorado River about 15.3 miles upstream of Dotsero. The project site begins about 4.7 miles upstream of this junction. The project will cover about a one mile stretch of East Fork Red Dirt Creek.
The goal of the project was to improve habitat conditions for native cutthroat trout as well as riparian-dependant terrestrial species (e.g., birds, insects), along the one mile stretch. East Fork Red Dirt Creek holds a fragile population of native trout, however a number of past and current disturbances occur in the watershed. Past impacts include historic logging and sawmill operations and more recent impacts from dispersed camping and cattle grazing. As a result, there has been significant loss of riparian vegetation caused by trampling, reduced bank stability and bank erosion, and widening. USFS fisheries biologists identified two severely degraded reaches in need of restoration work and in 2009 closed these areas to camping and met with range permitees to discuss better grazing practices and barriers.
The project resulted in improved fish and riparian habitat on Forest Service lands along one mile of Red Dirt Creek. In addition to the improvements to fish and riparian habitat in the project area, benefits extend miles downstream. Native sandstone, wood and soils were used to re-build eroded banks to a pre-disturbance state. The reconstructed banks were planted with native willows and seeded. Bank restoration and riparian revegetation efforts can reduce fine sediment input, increase cover and shade, stabilize stream banks, and provide an additional food source in the form of greater abundance of terrestrial insects, which comprise a large percentage of forage for trout in late summer. Riparian-dependent wildlife also benefit from enhanced habitat.
Aesthetics were improved by re-establishing vegetation (willows, grasses, wildflowers) to areas previously denuded by campers and vehicles illegally traveling off-road.
The Eagle River Watershed Council recruited volunteers from the community to assist Forest Service staff in construction and monitoring.
Specific project construction activities
- Reconstructing and re-shaping stream banks to pre-disturbance conditions.
- Installation of cattle barriers (barbed wire fence and whole trees) in impacted areas.
- Water-saver structures, which collect precipitation and provide an alternative water source for livestock, were installed in the upland areas.
- Campsites within 100 feet of the stream were removed and rehabilitated.
- Revegetation of riparian areas using locally-harvested willows and trees.
- Pre- and post-project monitoring of fish populations (2 different reaches) to measure the success of the project.