Contact Us Newsletter Signup

Native Trout

Greenback Recovery Efforts

Bearcreek River and canopy shot

“These fish have adapted to survive everything that has been thrown at them over the time they have existed” Don Logelin, VP, Conservation

Colorado is home to three remaining native sub species of cutthroat trout, Rio Grande cutthroat, Greenback cutthroat and the Colorado River Cutthroat. As the west was settled the populations of these fish declined drastically. At one point greenbacks were thought to be extinct. Then they were mistaken for the Colorado River cutthroat. With the science of genetics greenbacks were officially identified.

Greenback recovery was turned on its head with the release of genetic testing results by  Jessica Metcalf at CU Boulder in 2012. Essentially all references to “greenbacks” between 1937 and 2012 was misplaced on the wrong fish. All was not lost on these “greenbacks” though, fisheries efforts provided lessons learned in breeding cutthroats in captivity. Shortly after Metcalf’s study was released greenbacks received much media attention so, as this page will be focusing on the present and future of greenbacks see articles by Erin Block and Jeff Florence for information leading up to 2012. Organizations across the state are coming together for the greenbacks. Colorado Trout Unlimited, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, US Fish and Wildlife Service and others are working to re-introduce sustainable, naturally reproducing populations of greenbacks throughout the South Platte Drainage.

To some greenbacks are a small trout found in high mountain places in Colorado. To others, they are the true grit of Colorado. Greenbacks are unique to our state, they are as special as our flag, Red Rocks, Big Horn Sheep, Blue Spruce and Columbine. They are our state fish. Evolving over the ages in the South Platte drainage has given the greenbacks a unique coloration. The deep red that cuts its jaw, the golden mat that covers it from front to back, speckled with black dripped from a quill with perfect tact is the beautiful product of evolution. Greenbacks have bestowed our state with a golden opportunity, to restore a wild species to its native range while bringing it back from the verge of extinction. As Coloradans we have the gumption to ensure greenbacks will thrive in their native range, to prove we care about the unique creatures that make Colorado unexampled and to show the rest of the country that native species matter. Check out the Protection and Restoration pages to learn more about what Coloradans are doing to protect our state fish.


“These fish thrived in all of our waters before man came along, and so I believe it is our duty to protect the species since we were the ones that caused the problem in the first place” Josh Nehring Acting Senior Aquatic Biologist CPW

For more information see the Protection and Restoration pages by following these links.