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Support Flow Restoration on the Dolores River - Take Action!

Posted: 09/30/2010
By: Nathan Fey

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Colorado - American Whitewater has recently brought our expertise to bear on Dolores River Management and is actively working to restore instream flows to the Dolores Canyons. Our staff and team of volunteers are advancing the justifications for recreational releases, and we are negotiating with water users, local governments and federal agencies to develop new reservoir operations to meet ecological and recreational flow needs.


American Whitewater has completed our Dolores River Flow Study, designed to give paddlers and river enthusiasts an opportunity to identify their preferred flows for a range of recreational experiences on the Dolores River. The results of our study will help us quantify flows that are needed to preserve recreation, and enable American Whitewater Staff to negotiate reliable and predictable releases of water for downstream needs.


We are working against powerful interests that still view water kept in a river, as wasted water.  Interests that still believe that the Dolores River is not of value to all Americans, that it is not an icon of the West.

Today, we need you to join us in asking the US Bureau of Reclamation to take a leadership role in protecting the flow-dependent recreation and environmental values of the Dolores River.


By signing on to our letter, you are demonstrating public support for Federal decisions that protect natural resources and enhance instream flow conditions in the Dolores River.

Please join us in asking The Bureau of Reclamation:

- to protect the public interest and the environment through appropriate operation of it’s facilities at McPhee Reservoir.

- to protect and enhance conditions for fish, wildlife, land, and cultural resources, including recreation.

- to work with their stakeholders, including American Whitewater, to identify and plan for existing and future environmental and recreation water needs and to ensure recreation opportunities meet public needs and expectations.


The Dolores River carves one of America’s premier river canyons through southwestern Colorado. For 170 – miles from McPhee Reservoir, to Utah and its confluence with the Colorado River, the Dolores traverses some of the most remarkable landscapes in the desert southwest. One outstanding value of the Dolores River is its ability to accommodate long wilderness-quality river trips, putting the Dolores River second only to the Grand Canyon.


In order for the Dolores to provide these outstanding recreational opportunities,  there must be sufficient instream flows.  And not just for paddlers…the Dolores River has supported rare and endangered fish, river otters, and one of the largest winter habitats for Bald Eagles, all of which rely on a dynamic and healthy river.

In 1985, The Dolores was dammed, and its water captured and diverted into irrigated lands, never to return to the river.  When once the river would thunder down the southern slopes of the San Juan Mountians and carve its way thru desert slickrock canyons, today the is but a trickle. Endangered fish populations are declining, drought tolerant invasive species have moved in, and families floating down the river have been stranded as the water drops below boatable levels overnight.


With your support we will directly pressure the Bureau of Reclamation to incorporate recreation, fish and wildlife, and cultural resource requirements into the water and power operations of McPhee Reservoir. 


These actions all build towards lasting instream flow protections: they build public support, they build political support, and contribute to a strong, cohesive, diverse, and knowledgeable community seeking those protections.


For more information on our projects in Colorado, including the Dolores River, watch this short video!

Colorado Stewardship Director

Nathan Fey

1601 Longs Peak Ave.

Longmont, CO 80501

Phone: 303-859-8601
Full Profile


Associated Rivers

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Associated Projects

Dolores River (CO)

American Whitewater is working to conserve and restore a dynamic, healthy Dolores River by leveraging recreational water needs to enhance and support in-stream flows.

Lower Dolores Working Group (CO)

AW is working with a broad group of stakeholders to draft a new federal legislation that protects water and the iconic landscapes of the lower Dolores River.

Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!