At Running Rivers, we believe that as outdoor enthusiasts, it is our responsibility and great privilege to be an integral part of the maintenance and preservation of the public lands and waters that we recreate on.
Through our flagship program, the Rocky Mountain Flyathlon, we challenge our race participants to raise money to protect the very streams that we fish and the trails that we run.
And they have responded.
In the four years that we have been holding Flyathlon events, we have raised more than $100,000 for on-the-ground restoration and education projects with our conservation partners Colorado Trout Unlimited, the Western Native Trout Initiative, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. By design, many of our projects are targeted the basin where our events are held, so we leave the resource better than how we found it. Further, where possible, we encourage our program participants to volunteer in the execution of the on-the-ground projects that we fund.
Conservation through recreation.
What projects are we working on?
Jim Creek river restoration work. Located above La Jara Reservoir, Jim Creek contains one of Colorado’s conservation populations of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Over the past decades, Jim Creek and other streams in the watershed have been severely overgrazed by cattle, resulting in poor stream health conditions. With several other conservation partners, Running Rivers is investing in the future of Jim Creek through stream restoration projects. Click here for more info about the Jim Creek River Restoration Project.
San Luis Valley High Mountain Lake Characterization Project. Many of the high mountain lakes are located at the ends of very long trails at the tops of extremely remote watersheds. For many years, these lakes have been stocked with Rio Grande cutthroat trout by airplane by our conservation partner, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Due to the remote nature of these lakes and the streams that drain them, the efficacy of this stocking has not been adequately evaluated.
That is until now…
In 2018, with funds raised through the 4th Annual Middle Creek Flyathlon augmented by proceeds from The Rare Fish Rare Beer Project‘s Trucha Grande, Running Rivers partnered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to hire two interns whose job is to characterize the health of the fisheries in many of these high mountain lakes and streams. Tough job, right? Seriously though, the data collected during this effort will help to inform future stocking and lake reclamation efforts for the benefit of Rio Grande cutthroat trout conservation.
Indian Creek trail work. In a partnership with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado and funded in part with money raised in the 2015 Middle Creek Flyathlon, volunteers (including several flyathletes and Running Rivers board members) rebuilt sections of the Indian Creek trail, which provides a second route to access Rio Grande cutthroat trout fishing in the upper reaches of Middle Creek.
Haypress Lake. This small reservoir on private land in the Rio Grande basin has for many years served as the broodstock source for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Rio Grande cutthroat trout recovery program. A small grant from Running Rivers allowed Colorado Parks and Wildlife to complete an engineering study on dam safety, so that the lake can be maintained long-term as a home for Rio Grande cutthroat trout and a source for restoring the fish into new waters.
Rio Grande cutthroat signs/posters. This project created educational signage for trailheads in drainages with resident Rio Grande cutthroat trout. These signs will educate hikers, runners, hunters, bikers, fisher-people, birders, etc… about the threats facing this important fish. Further, Running Rivers funds, leveraged through a Western Native Trout Initiative grant, have enabled production and distribution of a poster version of this sign highlighting the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout. We have distributed more than 2000 copies of this poster to schools, government offices, and fly shops around Colorado and New Mexico.
Rio Grande basin fishing map. The San Luis Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited is partnering with the Running Rivers to develop an updated fishing/recreation map as a resource for those enjoying the Rio Grande river and its watershed. This map will highlight locations to catch and release Rio Grande cutthroat trout.
Re-routing the East Middle Creek trail out of East Middle Creek. In 2014, a good section of the trail along the East Middle Creek trail became flooded under several feet of water by beaver activity. Recognizing the risks to people and stream habitat, the good people at the Forest Service Saguache Ranger District re-routed the trail away from the creek and up onto the hillside. Part of the funds raised in the 2014 Middle Creek Flyathlon were donated to the Saguache RD to offset some of the cost of that trail restoration work.
Burgess Creek educational signage. Colorado River cutthroat were recently discovered in Burgess Creek within the Steamboat ski area. Running Rivers funds are helping to install educational signage about the native trout on-mountain, where it will be seen by thousands of skiers, bikers, and other visitors every year.
Coldwater-fisheries Adaptive Management Plan (CAMP). Running Rivers funds, leveraged more than 10 times over, are aiding the CAMP effort in the Dolores basin to bring the best science, including understanding of future climate change risks, to guide protection and restoration efforts for native trout in southwestern Colorado.
George Creek greenback restoration. Leveraged with funds raised by local TU members and a grant from Patagonia, Running Rivers funds will help cover the cost of installing a new fish barrier for the George/Cornelius Creek area in the Poudre watershed. The barrier will help secure suitable habitat for greenback recovery upstream.
Greenback cutthroat trout outreach & education. With leveraged funds and volunteer assistance from the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Running Rivers funds are helping develop materials for education and outreach on Colorado’s state fish, the native greenback cutthroat trout. These include website and video development, youth education materials including a fish life cycle game, and partnership efforts with the Bear Creek Nature Center in Colorado Springs where thousands of students each year pass through and can learn about Greenbacks in their local Bear Creek.
Mount Shavano fish hatchery. With support from Running Rivers and local Trout Unlimited chapters, Colorado Parks and Wildlife installed new, smaller tanks for rearing native greenback cutthroat trout for use in restoration projects, helping to improve the fish’s growth and survival.