Matt Kondratieff and Eric Richer
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 whitewater parks on the Uncompahgre River in Montrose, Colo., and the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at Pumphouse on the Colorado River.
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