Gunnison River

Goals 

Floating the Gunnison River is the fishing adventure of a lifetime in some of the most remote, spectacular scenery in the West. In the rugged, 14-mile stretch of the Gunnison Gorge in June, you might catch the salmon fly hatch, when lucky anglers encounter voracious wild rainbow and brown trout rising hungrily to swarms of giant stoneflies. Every cast has the chance to land a trophy-class trout. Home to the Black Canyon, Gunnison Gorge and Taylor River as well as lesser known but equally productive high-country tributaries, the Gunnison River system is a world-famous fishery, and with a little help, it’ll stay that way for generations to come. In coming years, TU plans to reconnect and restore fish habitat throughout the Gunnison basin that is presently fragmented, degraded or dewatered. These actions will make this legendary fishery even more spectacular for future anglers.

Tactics 

TU is protecting over 60,000 acres of public lands in the Gunnison headwaters by seeking federal protection of the Lake Fork portion of Colorado’s spectacular Alpine Triangle country, including unique backcountry angling opportunities for wild and native trout.

We’re reconnecting over 100 miles of Gunnison River habitat by replacing two diversion structures (the Relief Ditch and Fire Mountain Canal diversions), with new structures that will allow fish to move throughout the system. These projects will open up 65 miles and 40 miles, respectively, of the Gunnison and North Fork of the Gunnison rivers to fish migration, and also improve fishing, water quality, river stability and boater safety.

And we’re protecting and restoring native Colorado Cutthroat trout in the Gunnison headwaters. Steuben Creek contains a rare and genetically pure strain of Colorado River cutthroat trout, the native trout species in the Gunnison River Basin. The key to its survival is keeping water in the creek. TU is partnering with a private landowner and resource agencies on a project to improve Steuben Creek flows by modernizing irrigation infrastructure.

TU’s work in the Gunnison River basin is making a huge difference in one of the West’s most spectacular and cherished fisheries. Our common-sense brand of conservation benefits fish and fishing, as well as builds important partnerships with irrigators and the larger community in the Gunnison River basin.

Victories 

TU has long been a key advocate for the Gunnison. In the past decade, we defeated an ill-conceived hydropower proposal that would have dewatered 50 miles of the river, and we won a precedent-setting lawsuit that restores natural stream flow patterns through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. We’ve also now completed our first restoration project—working with irrigators to remove the Heartland Dam on the Gunnison, and replacing an aging diversion with a fish-friendly structure on lower Tomichi Creek.

Staff Contact 

Cary Denison, Gunnison Basin Project Coordinator, Colorado Water Project

cdenison@tu.org

Corey Fisher, Sportsmen’s Conservation Project

cfisher@tu.org

 

Issues 
Agriculture
Climate Change
Dams
Mining
Oil + Gas Drilling
Roads + Development
Places 
Black Canyon of Gunnison
Gunnison Gorge
Tomichi Creek
Taylor River
Steuben Creek
Species 

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Lake Trout

Lake Trout

Brook Trout

Brook Trout

Brown Trout

Brown Trout

Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat Trout

Solutions 
Reconnect
Author of this Page 

Randy Scholfield
Director of Communications, Western Water Project

Risks to Fishing 
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