Volunteers hike native trout up to their new homes this summer


by Dan Omasta, Grassroots Coordinator

Just last week, over 110 volunteers and 50 agency staff contributed to the recovery of the threatened Greenback Cutthroat Trout. The excitement was thick on the morning of July 16, as a line of cars entered the Dry Gulch Trail head and officially kicked off the three-day recovery mission. Many participants were volunteering for the first time - a few were veterans from previous stocking years. Everyone who volunteers for one of these projects joins a very special family - a group of people that have carried a threatened species on their backs and prevented its extinction.

The goal of the two stocking projects in Dry Gulch (July 16) and Herman Gulch (July 17) was to release over 1,500 Greenback fingerlings into the high alpine creeks and to ensure that they were spread out in the habitat as much as possible. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists, spreading the fish out over the different stream reaches will reduce competition and ensure the highest possible chance of survival. Over the past few years of stocking, CPW has found an average of 40% survival - which is a good rate for fish in the wild. The long term goal is for these fish to reproduce naturally and not have to be stocked again.

My daughter and I enjoyed the event: lots of positive energy, happy agency reps and volunteers, a beautiful setting and an opportunity to get our hands wet in planting the fingerlings
— Eric Weissenberger, a volunteer at the Herman Gulch stocking event

“The opening remarks by the reps of the participating organizations … illustrated the complexity and cooperative nature of the effort. I was glad that my daughter was exposed to that information, as 13-year-olds need all the context they can get regarding the private and public working world and the wide variety of ways in which one can contribute and make a living,” Eric explained.

In 2018, volunteers for these same stocking locations won a Volunteer Service Award from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These are big projects that demand boots on the ground. We could not do this without the hundreds of volunteers and supporters, and we know that our agency partners are very grateful as well.

Plenty of agencies, non-profits and businesses also helped make it happen, and all deserve recognition, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Trout Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, various TU chapters, Rep Your Water, Upslope Brewing, Basin + Bend, and Western Native Trout Initiative.

Bianca, CTU VISTA Youth Coordinator, participated in the Herman Gulch stocking and snapped some great pictures! She also took the great shots of the beaver dam removal project below.


On July 18, several volunteers worked alongside CPW and USFS staff to temporarily remove beaver dams along Black Canyon Creek. This effort is part of the larger Rock Creek Greenback Reclamation project which aims to provide another 9 miles of interconnected habitat once completed (likely in 2023). By notching the dams, CPW will be able to more effectively remove non-native brook trout from the area - which will also help treat the system for whirling disease.

Thank you to the volunteers, organizations, agencies, donors, and businesses that support the restoration of native trout populations and habitat across Colorado.