Morning photo: Sunday riverscapes

Frosty magic

Blue River Colorado

Frost-tinged willows, cottonwoods and aspens gleam in the morning light along the Blue River, north of Silverthorne, Colorado.

FRISCO —I’ve been expanding my river horizons the last few days, shooting the frost, mist and ice along Tenmile Creek, and most recently, the Lower Blue River, north of Silverthorne.

Turns out that Tenmile Creek, south of Copper, is similar to the Snake River in a couple of ways. At least in its lower reach near the resort, it flows east to west, which means the morning light can be tricky, but also awesome if you catch it at the right moment. And thanks to pollution from the Climax Mine, the water also has that fascinating aquamarine tinge that makes for good photos.

The Lower Blue is another story altogether. Thanks to Colorado’s feudalistic water laws, it’s not that easy to find good access spots for photography. Fortunately, we have an enlightened federal government that does insist on some public access rights to the water in areas where the river flows through public lands. If you like our daily snapshots, visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County landscape and nature images. Continue reading

Summit County: State biologists want your input on fishing

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Fishing at the Dillon Marina.

Public meeting set for March 18 at Silverthorne library

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Fishing season is right around the corner, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists want input from local anglers on fish management in Summit County’s lakes, reservoirs and streams.

“In addition to science and biology, we rely on the public’s input for our wildlife management decisions and strategies,” said Jon Ewert, aquatic Biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Hot Sulphur Springs. “We want to make decisions the public will support, so we encourage everyone to come out and tell us what they think.”

Ewert said this week’s meeting at the Silverthorne library (Monday, March 18, 6:30 p.m.) upcoming meeting at the  will function as a “data workshop” which he describes as being effective in encouraging discussion and interaction between the agency and sportsmen. Continue reading

Morning photo: Blue

Morning stroll

Winter in Summit County

Steam rises off the waters of the Blue River at Farmer’s Kormer.

FRISCO — Stayed a little closer to home Monday morning, venturing as far as the Blue River inlet at Farmer’s Korner for a morning photo walk. First things first — the willows at the mouth of the river have trapped most of the snow blowing off the surface of Dillon Reservoir, so in spots, it’s thigh deep. I got there in plenty of time to wait for the sun to pop up over Swan Mountain and tried to line up a few shots in advance. Once the light hit, it hit pretty hard and pretty suddenly. Instead of having a chance to shoot frames in a mellow half-light, It was bright and full of contract almost immediately. The second image in this series (below) was taken just at the right moment; just 30 seconds later, the scene was bathed in full sunlight, making it a bit harder to capture details and tones. Continue reading

Colorado: Dillon Reservoir dropping fast

Water level still 20 feet higher than during 2002-2003 drought

Even at a low level, Dillon Reservoir still shines at sunrise.

Dillon Reservoir’s water level has dropped to its lowest level since 2007.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Dillon Reservoir has dropped to its lowest level in about seven years — since May, 2007, when the elevation of the lake surface was at 9,002.21 feet and rising.

The current elevation of the reservoir (9,002.53) feet, is 15 feet below full and about 10 feet below the average elevation for this date, which is about 9,012 feet

Most recently, the reservoir dropped to near the current level in spring of 2009, when it hit 9006.72 just before the start of the runoff season in mid-March.

The current level may seem low, but the water dropped more than 40 feet lower in 2003 during Colorado’s last significant drought, reaching its lowest point on March 18, 2003, at 8,960.86 feet.

The reservoir will continue to drop the next few months, said Bob Steger, Denver Water’s manager of raw water supply, explaining that the combined current outflow through the Roberts Tunnel and the Blue River far exceeds the inflow of the streams that feed the reservoir. Continue reading

Drought watch: Breckenridge eyes water restrictions

Last year, an excess, as the Blue River ran at flood stage July 8 near the town rec center. This year, not enough, as the town council considers water restrictions. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Town council to consider emergency water ordinance at June 26 work session

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Keeping a close watch on ever-dwindling flows in the Blue River, Breckenridge officials may adopt Stage 1 water restrictions limiting outdoor irrigation to three days per week between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Details are on page 89 of the Town Council work session agenda, online at the town website.

The restrictions also apply to school fields, and the Stage 1 restrictions would also control how and where residents can wash their cars, while letting people water flowers as long as they use a hose with a shutoff valve or a hand watering can. Drip irrigation is also OK. Continue reading

Colorado: Some rivers, fish already on life support

Wildlife managers implement voluntary fishing closure on the Yampa

Some Colorado rivers and streams will take a hit from the drought this summer, but fishing should be fine at high elevation reservoirs like Clinton Gulch.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — During what should be the peak of the runoff season, some of Colorado’s streams and river are already on life support, including the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, where state officials have asked anglers to observe a voluntary fishing closure.

The closure will be in effect from the upstream boundary of the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area downstream through the city limits of Steamboat Springs, and anglers are asked to avoid this area.

Ron Velarde, regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the closure is voluntary for now and anglers are asked to avoid fishing there during the hottest part of the day, or preferably, to fish in other areas. If conditions worsen and several criteria established by regulation are met, a strict emergency closure enforced by law may become necessary. Continue reading

Summit County: Sampling the Blue River

Middle schoolers explore the connections between forests and rivers in their watershed studies unit

Ethan Minard and Dylan Berwyn turn over rocks in the Blue River looking for aquatic insects.

Story and photos by Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Watershed health is more than a buzzword in a headwaters area that helps supply water not only to local towns, but to farmers, ranchers and even distant cities like L.A. and Phoenix.

Summit Middle School eight-graders took that to heart last week as part of their final science unit of the year. learning about different natural processes and human activities that all affect the health of local streams. During a field trip, they studied forest plots, erosion, measured dissolved oxygen and minerals, and even sampled the Blue River for macroinvertebrates to assess the state of the local river.

Next week, it all comes together in a town meeting format, when the students will discuss what they’ve learned in the context of watershed management.

The field trip started with an orientation session in the school auditorium.

Continue reading

Summit County: State of the River session set for May 8

This year’s presentation to focus on low stream flows and reservoir operations in the face of a potential drought

The Blue River below Dillon Dam, July, 2011. BOB BERWYN PHOTO.

Peak flows! BOB BERWYN PHOTO.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — What a difference a year makes.

In early May 2011, Colorado water managers were sounding the alarm about possible flooding as they eyed one of the biggest snowpacks on record. Just 12 months later, some water providers are implementing conservation measures as the state faces drought conditions.

This year’s record-low snowpack and unprecedented early runoff in the Colorado River Basin will present water users with challenges, as ranchers in the Lower Blue grapple with irrigation and municipal water providers try figure out how to keep their reservoirs as full as possible while still meeting demand.

It won’ be easy, considering that much of the Colorado River Basin has already been designated as being in a severe drought by the National Integrated Drought Information System.

Some of the key players in managing stream flows and reservoirs in the Blue River Basin will try answer those questions May 8 at the annual state of the river meeting in Frisco (6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Summit County Community and Senior Center). he event is sponsored by the Colorado River District and the Blue River Watershed Group. Continue reading

Colorado: Green Mountain Reservoir not likely to fill this year

Bureau of Reclamation starts filling the reservoir April 1, the earliest date possible

Recreation could be affected by low water levels at Green Mountain Reservoir this summer.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Green Mountain Reservoir is unlikely to fill this year, even though the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is already staking its claim to Blue River water with the earliest “start of fill” on record.

The reservoir at the north end of Summit County is a key piece of the regional water supply puzzle, helping buffer the Upper Blue when senior water rights holders downstream on the Colorado call for water, at Xcel’s Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon and irrigation in the Grand Valley, for example.

Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about 43 feet below its maximum level and BuRec has shut the valve on outflows below Green Mountain Dam. Currently, only about 75 cubic feet per second are flowing past the dam and into the Blue River. Those low flows will likely persist until senior water rights holders down stream call for water from the reservoir. Continue reading

Dillon Reservoir to fill early, may drop fast in late summer

There probably won't be much excess water spilling down the glory hole and into the Lower Blue this year.

Denver Water diverting majority of Blue River flows through Roberts Tunnel to the Front Range

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Denver Water officials said this week they expect Dillon Reservoir to fill, or come very close to filling sometime in early June, depending on the timing of the spring runoff, but water levels could drop rapidly in late summer, and there won’t be much water released to the Lower Blue.

Currently, the reservoir is only about four feet below capacity. Last summer the reservoir filled July 27, one of the latest dates on record, as Denver Water made way for abundant runoff required by drawing the water level way down in spring and early summer. Continue reading

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