WRC Blog

Protecting a Gold Medal Trout Fishery along the Little Cimarron

Sep 1st, 2011  |  Written by Western Rivers Conservancy

Protecting a Gold Medal Trout Fishery along the Little Cimarron
Above: Little Cimarron River. Photo by Rich Durnan.

In an effort to enhance critical stream flows in a key tributary of Colorado’s Gunnison River, Western Rivers Conservancy is purchasing a critical parcel of land with senior water rights along the Little Cimarron River, one of the jewels of Colorado’s West Front and a renowned trout fishery.

Western Rivers has secured an option to purchase a 211-acre farm in Gunnison and Montrose counties with strategic senior water rights. Once the farm is acquired, WRC will team up with Colorado Water Trust and other partners to dedicate the water rights for instream water use. This will guarantee a natural flow in the river downstream to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Purchasing this property with its year-round senior water rights is an important and strategic step in ensuring water flows and keeping the cold and clear Rocky Mountain water in the streambed. Tumbling out of the Uncompahgre Wilderness, the first 13 miles of the Little Cimarron is a Gold Medal Trout Stream teaming with rainbows and brookies. Yet once the river reaches the irrigation ditches of Pleasant Valley, it is ultimately dried up by irrigation diversions from May to November. A great trout stream becomes little more than a rocky ditch.

This acquisition will permanently ensure water flows in the Little Cimarron all year long and will enhance its status as a prized trout stream. WRC has gained control of the farm and its associated water rights, and is in the process of seeking short-term and long-term funding. The land itself will be dedicated to conservation, either through a conservation easement or through public ownership. WRC believes this can be a model for other such streams in Colorado and throughout the West.