South Arkansas River Restoration Project

The South Arkansas River Restoration Project (SARRP) is located on an 1,100 foot section of the South Arkansas River downstream of the Hwy 285 Bridge in Poncha Springs, Colorado.  The project site is 100% on private land divided between two landowners.  The main focal point of the project was on a long outside bend that was being “stabilized” by Detroit riprap (Old car bodies and other debris).  These features were installed in the 1960’sand 70’s to protect the bank from eroding.  Along with being an eye-sore, the riprap was accelerating flows along the bank, which was lacking in fish habitat.  The lack of fish habitat is synonymous with most of this river due to historic flood protection measures and channelization.  The goal of the project was to remove the car bodies and debris, improve bank stabilization, create habitat, and connect to a previously restored adjacent downstream section. Over the past year to year and a half, TU worked with another local non-profit, Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas (LTUA), to seek out and write grants for the project work.  Successful grant funds were secured from the Trout and Salmon Foundation (T&SF) and the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) Healthy Rivers Fund (HRF), making this project a reality.  The local Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter of TU contributed a cash match contribution, as well as several volunteer hours.  In addition to the grant funds, 142 tons of rock for in-stream structures were donated from Butala Sand and Gravel.  Kaess Contracting, Inc. also contributed some in-kind for their machine time and hauling of the rock.  Countless hours were donated by one of the landowners who assisted in completion of the Army Corps of Engineers 404 permit, final design, and construction oversight.  This project was a great example of wide-ranging community involvement and support.  From grant writing to donations, and construction to volunteer work, various community organizations were involved when it counted.

SARRP Figure 2Figure 2: Post-construction photo of same bank in Figure 1 without debris.  A cross-vane structure is in the foreground creating habitat, while reducing shear stress against the bank. Bank slopes were graded to a gradual slope and re-vegetated with native plants and seed.




Construction work was completed in late November with the installation of several rock structures, log features, and bank stabilization work (Figure 2).   A previously featureless river now contains quite a few pool-riffle-run-pool sequences commonly associated with healthy rivers.  The icing on the cake was a volunteer planting work day along the newly restored bank and four steep bank slopes (Figure 3).  A local Rotary Grant funded a majority of the planting materials, food, and materials on a day in which eight local middle and elementary students learned how to plant riparian and upland vegetation.  An additional 15-20 mentors and volunteers were present from LTUA, TU, TU Chapter, and the Rotary Club to assist in installing over 200 plants.  A variety of upland and riparian species were planted, which included dogwood, willow, juniper, pinyon, chokecherry, rabbit brush, and a native seed mix.

Figure 3:  South Arkansas River Restoration Project volunteer workday

Figure 3: South Arkansas River Restoration Project volunteer workday

The goal of this project was to increase community awareness and develop a template for river restoration in the South Arkansas River Watershed.  With the help of the South Arkansas Watershed Coalition (SWAC), TU plans to engage adjacent landowners about the benefits of restoring habitat along the South Arkansas.  Through this effort, TU hopes to generate landowner support, and continue this type of project for years to come throughout the watershed.