Area awash in creeks receiving special management designation | PostIndependent.com
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Area awash in creeks receiving special management designation

Donna Daniels

Some special places in the White River National Forest will get a good deal of attention under the new forest plan.

The plan identified 15 such special places, including Camp Hale, Quandary Peak near Breckenridge, Independence Pass east of Aspen and the Colorado Midland Railroad.

These are areas recognized by the White River as needing individual attention because of their natural qualities, such as rare plants or animals or historic places worth preserving.

Closer to home, Mitchell Creek in Glenwood Springs, Main Elk Creek north of New Castle and Dead Horse Creek in Glenwood Canyon will get a dose of tender loving care from the Forest Service under the new plan.

Dead Horse Creek is better known for creating Hanging Lake, Bridal Veil Falls and Spouting Rock, a popular hiking destination in Glenwood Canyon for locals and tourists alike.

The 990 acres set aside as a special area demonstrate karst topography, formed by the flow of water through limestone and creating fissures, pockets and caves. The management prescription under the forest plan will prohibit motorized vehicles, and no new trails will be constructed.

Mitchell Creek just west of Glenwood Springs, is set aside because it is home to a genetically pure population of Colorado River cutthroat trout.

These native fish occur in only 1 percent of their historic range in Colorado, the forest plan said.

“It’s not for absence of habitat. The original 6,500 miles of streams on the White River National Forest largely remains intact,” the forest plan said.

However, they have been crowded out by non-native fish introduced over the years, such as brown and brook trout.

Isolated populations of genetically pure Colorado River cutthroat trout have been found above waterfalls on streams such as Mitchell Creek. Waterfalls prevent upstream migration of non-native fish, and so keep the cutthroat populations genetically intact.

Of the 62 known populations of native cutthroat on the White River National Forest, 31 are isolated above barriers like waterfalls that prevent intermingling. The forest plan has set guidelines and standards for aiding cutthroat recovery.

One step is to set aside 4,700 acres of Mitchell Creek to protect its water quality and maintain non-motorized access, which in turn will ensure the continued health of its native cutthroat population.

A 4,680-acre area of Main Elk Creek has also been set aside to protect a local population of native cutthroats. The scenic canyon has one of the few stands of lodgepole pines in the area.

A portion of Main Elk Creek, 2,800 acres, has been identified as a research natural area to protect and preserve its ecosystem in the interest of sustaining biological diversity on the forest. It will also provide sites for research into ecosystem function.

Another research natural area of 24,000 acres has been set aside on lower Battlement Mesa.


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