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Recovering the Big Thompson River and its Economy


Three years ago, flood waters rushed down the Big Thompson River through Estes Park and eastward to Loveland destroying whole stretches of the river channel and adjoining roads. That flood echoed a similar one 40 years ago that killed 144 people, destroyed countless homes and decimated the river bedNow, roads are being repaired and the ecosystem is slowly recovering, and that  recovery is crucial for the economy of local communities.  

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The Big Thompson River runs from the Rocky Mountains through Estes Park and eastward, south of Loveland across the plains into Weld County. This stretch in Estes Park suffered significant damage in the floods of 1976 and 2013. Repair work is being done now on the riverbed and adjoining parts of Highway 34 to make the road/river corridor more resilient to future floods and to restore the river to full health.
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Ben Swingle is an aquatic biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. He leads the annual fish count on the Big Thompson River. 
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This stretch of the Big Thompson that runs through Estes Park generates millions of dollars for the local economy with anglers flocking each year to fish its trout-rich waters.
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Swingle and his team of aquatic biologists use electrodes that emit a mild electric charge into the water to stun the fish so they can be easily caught and counted. 
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The biologists take two passes at catching the fish. The first pass captures significantly more fish. The fish that are collected are stored in a holding pen until they are weighed, measured and counted, before being released. 

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Jack Deloose has been a fishing guide in Estes Park for four years. "We get an awful lot of people, we'll probably end up with 600 people that will fish with us this year. People come to Estes Park for a lot of reasons and fishing is one of them."

Connecting the Drops Partners

Connecting the Drops is a radio collaboration between Water Education Colorado and Colorado Community Radio Stations KGNU, KDNK and KRCC.


 Support for 2017 programming comes from CoBank

1750 Humboldt Street, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80218