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Colorado Gulch Restoration:
Enhancing Habitat. Enhancing Experience.

PROJECT GOALS & BENEFITS

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The Colorado Gulch (COG) river restoration project offered a unique opportunity to enhance floodplain habitat and reconnect 1,200 feet of historic side channels by removing approximately 1,300 cubic yards (cy) of rip-rap and artificial fill that historically protected the COG road and bridge. The main limiting factor for salmonid habitat on the Big Wood River (BWR) has been successfully addressed through the reconnection of its floodplain. This strategic initiative now allows the river to naturally create complex habitat and provides crucial access to rearing areas during high flow events.

Disconnection has occurred due to development of homes and other infrastructure that reduced the BWR from an anastomosing channel form to a single channel form for the majority of the river.

Disconnection of historic side channels have reduced rearing and spawning habitat which has led to decreased survival and productivity of salmonid populations in the BWR.

Removal of the rip-rap will also allow us to construct large woody debris structures to enhance complex salmonid habitat, and provide cover by enhancing riparian habitat. 

This project is a great example of how we can reverse decades of bad practices such as channelization, bank hardening, and disconnecting habitats through infrastructure, and enhance salmonid habitat and recreational access.

PROBLEMS AND LIMITING FACTORS AND HISTORY

The 2017 water year for the Big Wood River was above normal. This led to a 50 year flood event for the Big Wood River which compromised the structural integrity of the Colorado Gulch Bridge (CGB). The previous road bridge length was too short to allow proper river function and connectivity to the floodplain; which led to the road bridge’s infrastructure to be compromised and unsafe for travel during the high flow event of 2017.

In the last 40 years the road bridge’s infrastructure was compromised three times due to its short length and restricting the river to the main channel and not allowing connectivity to the floodplain.

The CGB was deemed unsafe for travel in early spring of 2017 and removed in October of 2018. What remains is the bridge abutments, rip rap along the banks, and the bridge approach fill material. Because of this, the area around Colorado Gulch has been channelized, and disconnected from legacy side channels and floodplain habitat.

PROJECT PARTNERS

FUNDING

WOOD RIVER LAND TRUST

BLAINE COUNTY

WOOD RIVER LAND TRUST

FEMA

BLAINE COUNTY LAND, WATER & WILDLIFE PROGRAM

TROUT & SALMON FOUNDATION

BECOME A MEMBER

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Join Us to Preserve and Protect

Our members make up an incredible community of people who care deeply about protecting the wild spaces and happy places that make our Valley so special. As a member of the Land Trust, you'll protect critical land, keep trails open, restore our river and streams, help students enjoy the wonders of nature, and make sure these iconic landscapes are open for everyone to enjoy.

Become a member today, and make a difference right here in your community

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