Gore Canyon Whitewater Park secures Permit from BLM

Posted: 08/22/2014
By: Nathan Fey

Kremmling, Colorado - The Proposed Gore Canyon Whitewater Park has been given a green-light by the US BLM.  In a recent decision, the BLM awarded Grand County access to construct the park on public lands. The Project has taken several years to reach the point of final approval, and American Whitewater has been working for many years to ensure that the park is realized.

The project is intended to protect and provide a reasonable recreational experience as allowed by Colorado law; and in doing so: 1). Implement an important part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA) among Denver Water and over thirty of Colorado's west slope entities, that provides for the development of a Recreational In-Channel Diversion (RICD) below Gore Canyon; and 2). Provide permanent protection for flows in support of the Outstanding Remarkable Values (ORV) for Recreational Float boating in the Upper Colorado River as part of the BLM Resource Management Plan in support of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Stakeholders Group Alternative Management Plan.

The park is proposed in conjunction with Grand County's application for water rights on the Colorado River for Recreational paddling. The Recreational In-Channel Diversion right, or RICD, allows Grand County to "call" for 860 cfs from April 5-October 15th, and 1500 cfs from April 29th - July 22. The whitewater park will include concrete features that create play waves, and conform to state requirements that a water right be "controlled" by a structure.

The proposed structure would consist of a grade control structure of native boulders, alluvium, and filter fabric. The structure would have two distinct channels due to influences from the upstream island. The BLM contacted the project proponent in February, 2014 with questions regarding the proposed alternative’s design and the desire to reduce potential fishery impacts. On July 1, 2014, Grand County submitted an updated design that modifies one of the two channels of the proposed structure. This modified structure is intended to enhance fish passage through the structure and is considered the proposed alternative.

In the south (nearest to the Pumphouse Site) channel will be pre-cast structures generating a hydraulic jump, evident at all flows. The island between the two channels will be submerged at 2,000 c.f.s. The pre-cast structure will be submerged for flows above 500 c.f.s. and create a wave feature. The structure will not have the pre-cast structures to river left or river right sides, and instead will consist of select seven foot boulders with an open gap in the center of the channel. The gap and boulders will be below the existing grade, and the gap creates a “fish passage channel” approximately four feet in width, with a 1.5 foot depth when flows are 500 c.f.s. At 250 c.f.s., the depth would be six inches. The entire river structure would be “keyed in” to the bed of the river, with minimum depths of four feet to six feet below the existing bed to prevent scour. Boulder terraces would be constructed to stabilize the banks, with the left (south) bank including a slab stone terrace. The south terrace would also act as a staging area and viewing platform for spectators and users.

Construction is proposed to take place from November 15, 2014 through January 2015

Why is the Park Needed?

The Upper Colorado’s physical proximity to the Colorado front range has resulted in trans mountain diversions that remove more than 60% of the Upper Colorado’s flow. In response to several pending and potential future water actions, including the Moffat and the Windy Gap Firming Projects, the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement was signed in 2012 by Denver Water Board and West Slope entities. In the Grand County section of the main agreement, the Denver Water Board agreed to not opposed an instream flow filing for this segment of the Colorado River and a RICD flow filing that do not directly impact Denver’s water rights. In January, 2014, an instream flow right was decreed for the Colorado River segment starting at the Blue River confluence and extending down to the Piney River’s confluence. American Whitewater invested several years in the aquisition and approval of this instream flow right. In addition to this right, Grand County applied for and obtained conditional water rights (RICDs), which protects the Colorado River for recreational use. With this RICD right, Grand County shall have the ability to achieve flows between 500 c.f.s. and 2,500 c.f.s. Depending on future water filings this segment of the Colorado River could potentially see flows fall below environmental and recreational needs, potentially imperiling the paddling values for this segment.

The Wild and Scenic Stakeholders’ Group, including AW, and the parties to the CRCA, are striving to meet the minimum flows to help protect paddling. This RICD allows Grand County to place a call on the river, helping insure that new or future water uses would not result in flows below the minimums needed to support the recreational and environmental values in this segment.

Contributions are being accepted in support of the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park. For more information on how to donate, email info@americanwhitewater.org or visit the Grand Foundation.



Colorado Stewardship Director

Nathan Fey

1601 Longs Peak Ave.

Longmont, CO 80501

Phone: 303-859-8601
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Associated Projects

Gore Canyon Whitewater Park (CO)

AW is working with Grand County, CO to establish a new whitewater park on the Upper Colorado River. We have worked to identify the best location, and build support for the proposed project.

Upper Colorado River (CO)

American Whitewater is working with various stakeholders to develop a resource management plan for the BLM, as an alternative to "Wild and Scenic River" management.

Associated Rivers

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