Sign In
Whitewater Park Studies
Whitewater Park Studies

​​​​​​Led By

Matt Kondratieff​ and Eric Richer 

Study Area

Statewide

Project Status

Ongoing

Research Objectives

  • To determine the impact of whitewater parks on fish passage, habitat, natural river processes and potential conflicts between anglers and boaters. ​

Project Description

With more whitewater parks than any other state, Colorado has become the epicenter for whitewater park design and construction. Whitewater parks contribute to local communities by providing revenue from tourism, promoting public interest in rivers and creating exciting new recreational opportunities. However, no comprehensive studies have been completed to assess the effects of whitewater parks on fisheries and river ecology.

To better understand the effects of whitewater parks, CPW initiated a comprehensive research project in cooperation with Colorado State University to study a whitewater park in Lyons, Colorado. Using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) telemetry systems, researchers tracked fish movement to directly assess the effects of the Lyons Whitewater Park on upstream fish migration. PIT telemetry is a type of passive radio frequency identification that detects uniquely coded radio tags with fixed antennae. In addition to the PIT tag study, hydraulic modeling was used to analyze flow velocity, direction and depth. These data were used to compare fish passage and habitat in the whitewater park and a natural river channel. Results from the Lyons study indicate that whitewater parks can impair upstream migration of fish and create unfavorable habitat conditions for fish.

Information from this study is being used to develop design guidelines for whitewater parks that optimize both recreational and ecological benefits. As a variety of whitewater park designs are being used throughout Colorado, CPW will continue to research different types of structures and their effects on fish, benthic macroinvertebrates and habitat. Future studies are planned for the proposed w​hitewater parks on the Uncompahgre River in Montrose, Colo., and the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at Pumphouse on the Colorado River. ​

Associated Publications

Fox, B.D., B.P. Bledsoe, E. Kolden, M.C. Kondratieff, and C.A. Myrick. In review. Eco-hydraulic evaluation of whitewater parks as fish passage barriers. Submitted to Journal of the American Water Resources Association. ​

Kolden, N., B.D. Fox, B.P. Bledsoe, and M.C. Kondratieff. In review. Modeling in a three-dimensional w​orld: whitewater park hydraulics and their impact on aquatic habitat in Colorado. Submitted to River Research and Applications.

Stephens, T.A., B.P. Bledsoe, B.D. Fox, E. Kolden, and M.C. Kondratieff. In review. Effects of whitewater parks on fish passage: a spatially explicit hydraulic analysis. Submitted to Ecological Engineering.

Stephens, T.A. 2014. Effects of whitewater parks on fish passage: a spatially explicit hydraulic analysis. M.S. Thesis, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University. 86 pp.

Kolden, E. 2013. Modeling in a three-dimensional world: Whitewater park hydraulics and their impact on aquatic habitat in Colorado. M.S. Thesis, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University. 67 pp.

Fox, B. 2013. Eco-hydraulic evaluation of whitewater parks as fish passage barriers. M.S. Thesis, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University. 139 pp.   ​

Fox, B., Kolden, E., and Bledsoe, B. 2013. 3-D modeling of fish passage in Colorado whitewater parks. Colorado Water 30(3): 12-14.