Red Dirt Creek- Take Two!
In 2013, the Watershed Council began a second project along Red Dirt Creek, a tributary of the Colorado River. Throughout the year, the Watershed Council, along with a team of volunteers and help from the USFS and Trout Unlimted, will plant willows, install water savers and remove a dirt road that is adding sediment to the creek and harming the local greenback cutthroat trout population. Stay tuned for specific volunteer dates!
Below is a slideshow of photos taken at Red Dirt and along the Colorado River. County Commissioner Jon Stavney spotted otters, a threatened species, in the vicinity of the newly acquired Nottingham Red Dirt Parcel, a 232 acre historic ranch located 13 miles north of I-70 along the Colorado River Road that provides new public river access and access to adjacent federal public lands (BLM). The photos of the East Fork of Red Dirt Creek showcase our recent willow & rose planting efforts.
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 East Fork Red Dirt Creek Stream Bank Restoration is to improve habitat conditions for Colorado River Cutthroat trout as well as riparian-dependant terrestrial species (e.g., birds, insects), along one mile of East Fork Red Dirt Creek, CO. East Fork Red Dirt Creek (EFRDC) holds a fragile conservation population of Colorado River Cutthroat trout, however a number of past and current disturbances occur in the watershed. Past impacts include historic logging and sawmill operations and ongoing impacts include dispersed camping and cattle grazing. USFS fisheries biologists have identified two severely degraded reaches in need of restoration work. As a result, there has been significant loss of riparian vegetation caused by trampling, reduced bank stability and bank erosion, and bank widening. In 2009 forest service personnel closed these areas to camping and met with range permitees to discuss better grazing practices and barriers.
The Eagle River Watershed Council recruited volunteers from the community to assist Forest Service staff in construction and monitoring.
Specific project construction activities included:
Reconstructing and re-shaping stream banks to pre-disturbance conditions. Over widened stream crossings and livestock watering areas that exhibit severe bank erosion were reconstructed using native materials. The reconstructed stream banks were planted with native willow cuttings to provide bank stability and cover.
Installation of cattle barriers (barbed wire fence and whole trees) in impacted areas through the installation of one quarter mile of barb wire fencing. An approximately 100 foot water gap was left open and protected using techniques described above in this reach. In the second reach, barb wire would not be effective; therefore, whole tree additions were placed along stream banks to deter cattle use.
In spring 2010 two water saver structures were installed in the upland areas of the EFRDC watershed. These water savers are designed to collect spring snowmelt and rainwater and provide an alternative water source for livestock, drawing them away from the stream where better forage is found. This is a separate Forest Service project and is included in this proposal for informational purposed only.
Rehabilitation of non-compliant campsites within 100 feet of the stream. Illegal campsites were ripped and seeded using a bulldozer in accessible areas and hand tools in non-accessible areas. Volunteers helped with trash removal, seeding and re-vegetation, as well as ripping of campsites with hand tools.
Riparian planting using locally-harvested willow stakes and transplanted trees. Willow cuttings and tree saplings were taken by Forest Service staff and volunteers while plants are in dormancy and planted on site in spring/Fall 2010. Willow stakes and trees saplings were gathered and planted along EFRDC in areas where the banks have suffered damage and vegetation loss due to trampling by recreationists and livestock. The highest survival rate for willow plantings is expected using these methods.
Pre- and post-enhancement monitoring of fish populations (2 different reaches) and cross sectional stream surveys would be conducted to measure the success of the project. Permanent photo points were established to document pre- and post-construction and re-vegetation efforts.
- May, 2010- Eagle River Watershed Council will promote the project to recruit volunteers.
- August, 2010- pre-project fish surveys and cross sectional stream surveys.
- August, 2010- Stream bank restoration implementation in EFRDC, closure/ripping/seeding of illegal campsites, trash removal, barb wire fence and tree barrier construction.
- October 2010- Willows cut and planted in the stream bank at restoration areas.
- April 2011- Additional willows cut and planted in the stream bank at restoration areas (weather and snow pack permitting).
- Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District, White River National Forest
- National Forest Foundation’s 2010 Ski Conservation Fund