Hermosa Creek: Prime cutthroat habitat

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From The Durango Herald (Paul Shepard):

The Hermosa Creek basin has two outstandingly remarkable values: recreation, and fish and wildlife. Virtually all outdoor recreation activities are allowed including mountain biking, hunting, fishing, camping, off-roading, horses, hiking, climbing, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing and recreational vehicles. The basin also supports local agriculture with grazing allotments. To build on the outstandingly remarkable value of fish and wildlife, the Colorado River cutthroat trout reintroduction program is under way, with the Division of Wildlife working with the Forest Service…

Hermosa Creek is considered to be the top location in Colorado because it meets the criteria needed for success, including a waterfall on the East Fork to act as a barrier. If a waterfall is not available, a man-made one must be built. The barriers are needed to keep invasive trout from moving upstream and compromising the native-only populations. Barriers cannot be built just anywhere. Available geologic features must include sufficient gradient and a pinch-point. Additionally, a road must be near for equipment and stocking trucks. Such a road exists in Hermosa Park…

Nearly two decades ago, the Forest Service began this process by acquiring Purgatory Flats on the East Fork of Hermosa via a land swap. In 1991, the Division of Wildlife turned this reach into a cutthroat-only fishery above Sig Creek falls. Two years ago, a man-made barrier was built on the main stem at Hotel Draw, and the reintroduction is ongoing. Once the main stem is completed, this will create two separate populations. Thus far, the cutthroat reintroduction program is considered to be a success. However, the ultimate goal is to connect these two populations, allowing for movement between drainages and promoting population diversity. The Hermosa Park private parcel is the limiting factor to complete success. This is because the confluence of these two sections resides on this private property and is out of the jurisdiction of the Forest Service…

Two years ago, Hermosa Creek received the designation of “Outstanding Waters” by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. The creek has such high water quality that, by law, it can’t be compromised. Hermosa Creek is the only stream in Colorado with this designation outside of a national park or wilderness area. Also, the Hermosa Creek watershed is Colorado’s largest unprotected roadless area. Literally tens of thousands of acres are so pristine, they are eligible for wilderness designation. And all this is little more than a half hour’s drive from Durango. However, the Hermosa Park private parcel sits right in the middle of this amazing open space. In an open and public workgroup formed in 2008, unrelated to the land swap issues, a consensus values statement for the Hermosa basin was articulated as: The Hermosa Creek area is exceptional because it is a large, intact (unfragmented) natural watershed containing diverse ecosystems, including fish, plants and wildlife over a broad elevation range, and supports a variety of uses, including recreation and grazing, in the vicinity of a large town.

This diverse working group – ocs.fortlewis.edu/riverprotection/Hermosa – sees the value of an intact watershed and recognizes the special and unique characteristics of the Hermosa Creek area.

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here.

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