Moose stands in the wallows and wet of George Creek
Not too long ago I was able to scout some new greenback territory with two colleagues. Upon arrival at George Creek we promptly stretched and yawned then headed to see the stream. It appeared to be a disappointing trickle surrounded by cattle, moose and dense vegetation. We stood, looking at the stream, wondering, who chose this creek and why.
The following Tuesday, in a meeting with Boyd Wright, a Native Aquatic Species Biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife we got our answer. Boyd was able to shine new light on George by explaining the details of the stream. George Creek sits at 9000 feet and has an easy gradient over about six land miles to it's confluence with Cornelius creek- most streams being looked at for greenback restoration are at 10000 ft or higher. Because of the easy gradient and elevation George Creek holds a consistent temperature above its high mountain counter parts. The temperature and elevation duo make George a well above average home for greenbacks.
With temperature and elevation taken care of, the next and most important question to ask is, did greenbacks originally inhabit this area of our state? Yes. The primary aspect of George is its location, after its confluence with Cornelius Creek it flows into the Cache La Poudre, from there its waters eventually wind their way to the South Platte, placing it squarely in the greenbacks native range. So although George may look like a challenging reintroduction site it offers up a robust ecosystem with many benefits. With our doubts eased we left the meeting satisfied with George Creek.
The road to George is a rocky one, literally. Windy, narrow, heavily forested, four wheel drive roads ensure your average sedan driving suburbanite is unable to access the miles of the moose ridden trout stream that is George Creek. With trucks and volunteers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife plan to build many fish barriers in George Creek to prevent nonnative fish from reentering the stream and to prevent the spread of whirling disease to the upper reaches of the creek. Without these barriers, nonnative brook trout would compete with the native cutthroat. Likewise, if whirling disease were to spread up stream it would wipe out the entire population of stocked greenbacks.
The barriers will do an adequate job of keeping the disease from moving up stream via fish, but it can also be spread by humans on dirty gear. It is important to take the proper precautions before recreating in the stream; be sure all of your gear is clean and dry and you walk from the headwaters of the stream down. To find information on cleaning gear see the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Angler Cleaning Card.
George Creek may not be seen as a divine ecosystem for greenbacks but given the current portfolio of streams for greenback restoration, it does provide the necessary diversity in habitat. Recruitment in the stream may be minimal per mile but with many miles of stream and a higher temperature range, along with lush riparian habitat to provide vibrant insect life, the stream makes it a livable home for the greenbacks.
Not to mention a nest egg for research biologists to study for years to come.