Area streams, Glenwood Canyon, meet criteria for wild and scenic designation

Donna Gray
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Glenwood Canyon and several streams in the region may warrant a wild and scenic river designation, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Like wilderness areas, free-flowing wild and scenic rivers garner special federal protection.

The BLM issued a report this week identifying area waters that the agency considers worthy of consideration for the status ” and the protections it bestows ” as part of an effort to update the 1984 resource management plans for areas managed by the bureau’s Glenwood Springs and Kremmling field offices.

The plans will provide overall management direction for the next two decades for the 567,000-acre Glenwood Springs area and 378,000-acre Kremmling area.

“The eligibility list gives us a list of river and steam segments within our boundaries with regionally or nationally significant values,” explained Jamie Connell, Glenwood Springs BLM field manager, in a press release. “We will now use this information to conduct a suitability study to determine whether a stream segment would make a worthy addition to the national Wild and Scenic Rivers system.”

Currently, a portion of the Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins is the only river section in the state to be designated as wild and scenic, said BLM spokesman David Boyd.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 established a federal system for protecting free-flowing waters.

In its study, the BLM found 11 rivers orstreams that meet the eligibility criteria, which include scenic, geological, historic, recreation and fishery values. The list includes Glenwood Canyon and portions of No Name, Mitchell and Thompson creeks in Glenwood/Carbondale area.

Although most of Glenwood Canyon is within the White River National Forest, some of lies within lands managed by the BLM, Boyd said. The report identified three miles of the Colorado River, as it flows through BLM land, that is eligible for the designation.

Glenwood Canyon is the largest canyon of its kind on the upper Colorado River, according to the report, and is “widely considered one of the most scenic natural features on the Interstate Highway System of the United States.”

It was also singled oout for its outstanding geological values: Its 1,000-foot walls reveal the full range of Earth’s geologic eras, from the very earliest Precambrian period beginning 4,500 million years ago.

Also identified as eligible for the wild and scenic river designation was No Name Creek, which flows into the Colorado River in the canyon. The creek was singled out for its historic flume and aquaduct ” part of an early 20th century water system that powered one of the earliest hydroelectric plants in the country, in Glenwood Springs.

A part of Mitchell Creek was also recognized for its population of genetically pure cutthroat trout, which, along with other trout species, has been decimated by whirling disease elsewhere throughout the state.

The BLM identified Thompson Creek, south of Carbondale, as having special geologic values for its colorful sandstone “fins” and its proximity to the historic Aspen and Western Railroad, which served the early coal mines between Carbondale and Crystal City.

Having identified potential contenders for the status, the BLM will focus on determining which rivers it will put forward for formal consideration by Congress, which must make the final determination. The process ” the suitability study ” includes meetings to gather the imput of “stakeholders” ” those with an interest in seeing the waterways protected, or not. The Thompson Creek area, for example, is a target of possible oil and gas development.

Six “scoping meetings” on the resource management plans are scheduled in April, including two that will take place locally ” April 10 at the Rifle Fire Station and April 11 at Carbondale Town Hall. Both meetings are from 4 to 7 p.m. and they are open to the public.

Go to for more on the resource management plan process and the Wild and Scenic Eligibility Study.