Please check out the article, run in Flylords Magazine, here.

Restore The Gore

The revival of the heart of Vail

By Andrew Braker -July 17, 2020

Vail has long been known as a great destination for fly fishing. The fishing opportunities surrounding the town, including Gore Creek, the Eagle River, the Colorado River, and the surplus of alpine lakes and streams, have always lured anglers to this location. 

Landscape view of the Vail Valley including a pond and the Gore Mountain Range
Courtesy of the Town of Vail

Gore Creek—the creek that runs through the heart of Vail—provides anglers with the unique opportunity to catch a “Colorado Grand Slam” (catching a rainbow, brown, brook, and cutthroat trout from the same body of water on the same day)! Sunny and 70’s, pulling out different species on each take, and being surrounded by beautiful mountain vistas … Gore Creek is hard to beat.

Brook trout in hand.
Courtesy of @ericbraker

While fishing on Gore creek can be epic, the stream’s condition is much different than it was a few decades ago. Today, the stream faces problems of pollutants from urban runoff, drainage from pavement and rooftops, and the loss of streamside vegetation that filters pollutants and slows their drainage. In order to learn more about the history of Gore Creek and the ongoing restoration work that is happening, we met up with Pete Wadden, the Watershed Education Coordinator for the Town of Vail.

Q & A 

Flylords: 

Hey Pete! So where does the story behind Gore Creek begin?

Pete Wadden: 

I’ll go back to the initial development of the town. Vail is actually pretty young. Construction on the town began in 1962, and the town grew very slowly up until the late 70’s. But from the 80’s until the present day, there was an explosion of growth that led to the rapid development of Vail and the surrounding Eagle Valley. Within a period of about 50 years, the valley went from being a fairly untouched area, consisting of beaver swamps and marshes, meandering streams, and natural forests, to a place with near-urban levels of development, and an interstate highway.

Night time scene of the town of Vail.
Courtesy of @mr._ford

Flylords:

How did this development affect Gore Creek?

Pete Wadden:

When these early developments were happening, people weren’t really thinking of the impact it would have on the stream. As the land started to be developed, Gore Creek was channelized and redirected away from the prime building locations. These developments had negative impacts on the water quality, water speed, water temperature, and the amount of valuable habitat. As you can imagine, this had a negative impact on the trout fishery.

Person casting on Gore Creek with mountains in the background.
Courtesy of @ericbraker

Flylords:

What is the Town of Vail doing to help get Gore Creek back on its feet?

Pete Wadden:

In 2016 the town introduced the “Restore the Gore” initiative. The initiative focuses on three main aspects: 1) Riparian Restoration, 2) Stormwater, and 3) Landscaping Practices.

We are about to surpass our goal of planting 10,000 native trees and shrubs along the creek. We have also started a project called “Project Rewild”—a public/private cost share that helps private property owners restore their property. This is especially important considering that 60% of the watershed is privately owned. Another popular initiative is the artwork that we feature next to the town’s storm drains. Each summer we have local artists create pieces that depict Gore Creek’s native habitat. Pieces (like the one below) are featured next to the storm drains to help educate the public on the idea that “what goes in here, ends up there.”

Painting of a cutthroat trout swimming in a stream
Courtesy of @mandyhertz_flyart

Flylords:

What does the future of Gore Creek look like?

Pete Wadden:

There is a lot of work ahead of us, but the future looks good. The health of the creek, and the strength of the fishing will only be improving from here on out. With the help from the town, local nonprofits, and the stewardship of private landowners, Gore Creek will continue to get healthier with time.

Two people restoring the riparian buffer of the creek
Courtesy of the Town of Vail

Flylords:

Are there any lessons to be learned from Gore Creek’s story?

Pete Wadden:

Many fly anglers are already aware of the fact that waterways, like Gore Creek, are valuable ecosystems—places with trout, insects, habitat, clean water, and endless other factors that help create a cohesive ecosystem. The biggest takeaway message from Gore Creek’s story is that we need to think of Gore Creek as a holistic ecosystem, not just a channel of water.

Painting of angler wading in Gore Creek, with adult flies flying around.
Courtesy of @mandyhertz_flyart

To learn more about the restoration of Gore Creek, follow along on Instagram @restoregorecreek.

Article written by Flylords Content Team Member Andrew Braker.