Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited

  The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited is located in beautiful Grand County Colorado. We are north-west of Denver and on the west side of the Continental Divide. We're located just where you'd expect based on our name: at the headwaters of the Colorado River. That means we're  where the human population density is low and wildlife density (including fish) is high. Our moose count far exceeds our stoplight count.  Grand County is roughly the size of the state of Delaware with a population of around 14,000. The main communities here are Winter Park, Fraser, Tabernash, Granby, Grand Lake, Hot Sulphur Springs, Parshall and Kremmling. We are fortunate to fish the Colorado and its first tributaries near their source, and the fishing here is wonderful.

  The mighty Colorado River (originally called the Grand River, hence, Grand County, Grand Junction, Grand Canyon, etc.) begins its journey here in Rocky Mountain National Park. Soon after leaving Rocky Mountain National Park the Colorado enters Colorado's largest and most beautiful natural lake, Grand Lake. From Grand Lake, it makes its way through Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby. The first major tributary to the Colorado is the Fraser River, which joins the Colorado River near Granby. From Granby the Colorado heads through Hot Sulphur Springs, Byers Canyon and Kremmling before moving on towards Grand Junction and the Utah border on its way to the Pacific. 
  As fishermen (and women) we find innumerable spots to find solace and wet a fly along the Colorado and Fraser Rivers here in Grand County.
  As members of Trout Unlimited, we care about our rivers and work to preserve the aquatic habitat required for fish to thrive. Colorado water law was written when it was still legal to buy a slave. That outdated approach to water enabled entities on the opposite side of the continental divide to buy the rights to most of the water in Grand County and send that water under the Continental Divide to the Front Range. In Colorado, water doesn't flow flows to money. 
  We don't have as much money or political clout as the Front Range so we know much of the water that was meant to be in rivers here will end up on Front Range lawns. Our TU chapter is dedicated to making the best of what's left. For example, we're working to turn the Fraser from a dying river to a healthy creek. Help us in our mission!

We Need Your Support!


You can make a secure donation to the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited using your credit card or PayPal account directly by clicking the Donate button below. Please note that if you try to use a credit card associated with your PayPal account you will be required to login to and use your PayPal account, not the credit card itself.'s a little confusing, but that's the way PayPal works.

​The Colorado Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited welcomes your contributions. We are a 501(c)(3) corporation, so your contribution may qualify for a tax deduction. You can send us a check at:

Colorado Headwaters Chapter Trout Unlimited
PO Box 990
Winter Park, CO 80482-0990

You can also support us by becoming a member and coming to our next annual Banquet on Monday, July 25, 2016 at Devil's Thumb Ranch and Riverstock, our summer music and educational event at the Crooked Creek Saloon. We also invite members to attend our monthly board meetings. They're usually held the second Wednesday of each month at the Crooked Creek Saloon in Fraser. Start time is 6PM and beer is involved. Check the calendar for details or call a board member for more info.

Thanks to TU Board member Brad Johnson for these two great photos!



Latest News And Action Requested

April 20, 2016 Informational Seminar

On Wednesday, April 20th at 7:00 pm in the Fraser Library, our chapter will host an educational seminar on the Blue Valley Ranch land trade. BVR representatives will be there to discuss all aspects of this proposed land trade with questions from the public to follow. This is your opportunity to learn how our water will be impacted by the proposed trade.

TU Banquet Monday July 25, 2016

Our annual banquet will again be held at the beautiful Devil's Thumb Ranch. This is our only annual fundraiser. It's also a great opportunity to meet others who share your passion and enjoy a great dinner with friends. Tickets usually sell out so purchase yours early. For all the details, click here.

Local TU Meetings are Open to All

Our local Colorado River Headwaters Chapter board meets (with rare exceptions) the second Wednesday of each month in the back room of the Crooked Creek Saloon in Fraser. Meetings start at 6PM and everyone is welcome. We work on the projects we have coming up, plan events and fundraisers and plan how best to inest in saving our rivers. We also talk about fishing, drink beer and laugh a lot. Board member Paul Hollrah's wife likes him to attend the meetings because he always comes home in a great mood. Feel free to join us!

Colorado Water Plan

If you're interested in the health of our rivers in Colorado, you're probably aware that our state has implemented its first ever water plan. Like any document created in a politically charged environment, it is a product of compromise. It doesn't give TU and other environmental environmental organizations everything we would hope for, but it appears to be a positive step forward. Here's a link to Trout Unlimited's  mostly positive take on the new agreement.

First TU Film Festival 

Our local Trout Unlimited Chapter debuted two new water-related films in the Middle Park High School auditorium on November 20. Thanks to all the interested folks who joined us despite the difficult weather and roads! We hope to have another similar event in the future.  Here's a little information on the films we showed. 

The Great Divide is the most comprehensive and educating film about the history and uses of water in Colorado. This film takes the perplexing issues around water and states them in a way that everyone can understand and feel empowered to help make a difference in our water future. For more about the movie, click here.

The Perfect Storm is a short film that tells the story of fighting for the rivers here in Grand County.

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust

On September 12, our friends at the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust (CHLT) held their annual fundraising dinner. It was a great success at fundraising, but also at educating. Part of the education came from our own TU President, Kirk Klancke, who gave the keynote presentation. Kirk focused on the importance of protecting the land along rivers, which is the core mission of CHLT and the new cooperative relationship with Denver Water. Two critical elements of that cooperation with Denver Water are Learning By Doing and funding for river restoration and enhancement projects. Another part of the education was provided by this brief video produced by Michael Turner of TV18.

New Local Water Website

A new website on water issues in Grand County debuted in October. Our friend Anna at Colorado Headwaters Land Trust created it as part of her masters program. Check it out by clicking here for one more perspective.

Toxic Mine Spill Update

About three million gallons of toxic sludge spilled into a tributary of the Colorado River near Durango, CO on August 7.  Numerous mines in the US pose the same sort of threat.

We're fortunate that here in Grand County we were never a big mining center so we will won't have a problem of this nature. Our local struggle is more focused on maintining water quantity and managing the impacts of low flow rather than coping with a toxic spill.

The big picture is not that it's the EPA's fault for causing the spill. It's that there are 500,000 abandoned hard-rock mines in the US and thousands of them pose similar threats. TU national would like to be part of the solution, but current law makes it difficult for a non-profit to be much help in solving the problem. The upper 15 miles of the Animas River was dead for years before this spill happened because of leakage from mines. As a result, no trout died due to the spill.

 Here's a link to the Durango Herald which is frequently updating their information. Colorado Public Radio has produced several excellent features on the spill as well. Follow this link to their website and enter "animas" in the search box in the upper right of the page. Rocky Mountain PBS also had a segment on the spill, including an interview with a TU representative on their Friday 8/14 Colorado State of Mind show. The show has not been posted online as of mid-day on Monday, 8/17 but here's a link to the RMPBS website which already has several other water-related features. 

Many Colorado Rivers Impacted by Mines

More than 1,600 miles of Colorado rivers are impacted by runoff from mines. The good news for us locally is that Grand County does not have any of the impacted rivers. For more detail and a detailed map click here.  

Family Fly Fishing Day Photos
Our third annual Family Fly Fishing event was again held at the beautiful Trail River Ranch inside Rocky Mountain National Park on Friday, July 31. Kids (and parents) learned the basics of fly fishing, the importance of water in the west and, best of all, caught some fish. To see the photos from the event, click here to go the photo album generously made available online by our friends at the Fraser River Valley Lions Club.

Special thanks to our instructors from TU, Wayne Balnicki and Paul Hollrah, Bonnie Severson from Trail River Ranch and Jerry Nissen for organizing the event. 

Best TU Banquet Ever!
Devil's Thumb Ranch hosted our 2015 Banquet with their usual style and flair. Roughly 170 lucky people shared fun, friendship and raffle items at our annual fundraiser on July 20. We learned about the progress in our efforts to save our rivers and our new-found cooperation with water diverters. Chapter president Kirk Klancke told us about the importance of maintaining ongoing funding to keep TU attorney Mely Whiting focused on the Fraser and upper Colorado Rivers, and that a portion of the Banquet proceeds will help keep Mely fighting for our rivers.  Paul  Bruchez gave a passionate talk about the new cooperation between irrigators near Kremmling and environmental groups including TU. All of us at TU were pleased to honor Paul with our annual River Conservation Award for the year.

Continuing to Save The Fraser 
You've seen the "Save The Fraser" bumper stickers around the Valley for years, and have been wonderfully supportive. The opportunity for you to participate actively in actually saving the Fraser has just gone to a new level. To learn what you can do, click here.

Why TU Supports MECP Agreement With Denver Water

Some feel that it will lead to more problems for the Fraser and upper Colorado. TU recognizes the Denver Water owns more water in Grand County than they are currently taking. We wish that weren't the case. We'd rather see more water stay here, but the current reality is that under the law Denver can take more water than they currently do. The MECP agreement is intended to deal with that reality and make the best of a bad situation. For the past eighty years, Denver has been diverting water from the Fraser with no accountability for the health of the river. If this project dies, we're convinced that the next eighty years will look like the last eighty. If MECP moves ahead the diversion permit is tied to adaptive management. TU believes adaptive management builds in the accountability that will enable us to ensure the ongoing health of the Fraser. ​One critical component of our agreement with Denver Water is Learning By Doing. According to our Trout Unlimited representatives at these meetings (Kirk Klancke and Mely Whiting) the first few meetings have been productive and promising. The first step to protect and improve our streams is stream monitoring. At TU, we believe a science and fact based analysis of the challenges our rivers face is the first step to developing an effective plan of action. Learn what should be done, make a plan and only then implement the plan!

Record Low at Lake Mead

Lake Mead relies on water from the Colorado to provide both water and electricity for Las Vegas and other parts of the southwest. Our ongoing 20-year drought has lowered the water level at Lake Mead to its lowest level since it was first filled from the Colorado 78 years ago. The drought, combined with the increasing demands will soon push the water level below the level at which the water driven electric turbines that produce electricity for Vegas will stop spinning. Vegas is building a new, lower intake (for $1.4 billion...yes billion, not million) to bring water from Lake Mead to Las Vegas for its municipal use. For an article with more details from the April 23 Las Vegas Review-Journal, click here.

Colorado River Most Threatened River in US

The PBS News Hour did an interesting report on our friends at American Rivers ranking of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon as the most threatened river in the US. Follow this link to the video clip. American Rivers is also fighting commercial development in the Grand Canyon. To see their website and a petition to oppose that development, click here.

Why California Drought Matters to Us

The Sky Hi News ran an interesting article on April 17, 2015 discussing the impact and importance of the California drought to Grand County and the entire Colorado River basin. Everything is connected! To read the article, click here. The same paper had another article on Lake Granby. Click here for that article.

Learning By Doing Protects Our Rivers

One of the most important components of our cooperative agreement with Denver Water and Grand County is Learning By Doing. Fundamentally, Learning By Doing relies on careful observation and information gathering as the first step. The information is then analyzed and solutions are proposed to address problems in our rivers. The suggested steps to mitigate the problems are implemented and observation continues. How well did the mitigation work? Do we think we could do better? What can be done differently to improve the results? Let's try another approach instead or in addition to what we've already done because we think it will be better for the rivers. 

Trout Unlimited is an important player in the Learning By Doing process. For the latest updates, click here. 

Give TU Membership to a Teen

The holidays are fast approaching. What can you give the teen who has everything? Don't give them a thing at all, give them a TU membership! Trout Unlimited has a special offer to get teens engaged with something they will enjoy for their entire life. Follow this link for the details.

Colorado Water Plan Update 

Colorado is working on its first-ever state-wide water plan. An important component of that plan is the Basin Implementation Plan (BIP). Our friends at the Audubon Society's Western River Action Network came our with a brief summary of what they like and don't like from what has been presented so far. To see their informative one-page summary, click here.   

In late February, 2014, information about the first-ever Colorado water plan was published by the Northwest Colorado Council of Government. Planning based on science rather than political or economic clout will be good for our rivers and larger environment. Read more under the Conservation & Science tab of this website or by clicking here.

Science or Politics 

Trout Unlimited believes science should trump politics. As a result, we strongly disagree with a letter to the editor which appeared in the July 16, 2014 Sky-Hi News. To read TU's response to these politically charged comments, click here.

TU on TV: New Local Documentary Series The Mighty Colorado River

Grand County has more water diverted from it than any other county in the state. As much as 80% of the upper Colorado will be sent to the opposite side of the continental divide. The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited has partnered with Grand County TV18 to create a new TV documentary series being filmed here in Grand County. The series highlights the challenges facing our rivers, informs you as to what can be done and how you can help protect our natural heritage. The show airs daily on Comcast in Grand County at 8 AM, 12:30 PM and can also be seen via a live stream (click here for the live stream) everywhere. For details, including how you can support the documentary, and a few segments from the show, click here.  

TV Newscasts & Features Describe Fraser River MECP and More Water Issues

The June 2014 TV coverage on the Fraser addresses this spring's floods in Grand County and the reality of water storage and diversion. Click here to go to the 4 minute video clip featuring two local TU board members. The new Mitigation and Enhancement Plan is described in this local April 26 TV newscast available by clicking here. To see a brief April 6 TV newscast focusing on two Grand County water issues, click here. You'll see a good summary of the Moffat agreement and the latest on the Byers Peak project's water.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Others Talk About Water On StarTalk 

During February of 2015, the StarTalk podcast hosted by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson devoted two entire episodes to a discussion of water. Guests Robert F. Kennedy Jr., The Gyalwang Drukpa, Dr. Tess Russo and Jason Sudeikis participated in an enlightened, informative discussion about water on our world and others. The podcasts are available by clicking here.

Confused About Colorado Water Law?

Water law in Colorado was written when it was still legal to own a slave. It's complex and often confusing. We're lucky to have a very readable one-page summary written by District 51 Water Commissioner Sue Avre to help us all understand the basics. Click here to check it out on our new Colorado Water Law page. Thanks Sue!

Fracking Water Recycling

6.2 billion gallons will be used next year for fracking in Colorado. What happens to that water? How much is recycled or can be reused? For an interesting report by Colorado Public Radio, click here.

Moffat Project Study Executive Summary & Final EIS

Confused about the Moffat Diversion Project? A study completed by Colorado State University in the fall of 2013 brought up serious concerns about the impact of reduced flows resulting from the Moffat project. This is the sort of science based analysis that helped lead to the favorable agreement of March, 2014. Supporting TU helps us to develop and use this sort of information in our efforts to protect our rivers and the environment. We believe the important decisions about our rivers and the environment should be influenced by science not money or politics. For an excellent, readable summary of the study's results, click here. The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is available by clicking here.

Granby Kids Win National Environmental Mural Award 

Renowned muralist and conservationist Wyland announced on December 4, 2013 that Katrina Larson's art students at East Grand Middle School   were named the grand prize winners of the National "Water Is Life" Classroom mural contest for grades 5-8. The contest, inspired by the growing demands on U.S. water resources, took place Oct. 21-Nov. 21, and drew more than 9,000 students across 45 states. Participating students painted 50 square-foot murals depicting the range of habitats and uses for water throughout the United States. We'll have an entire page about the award up shortly. For now, you can follow this link to the Wyland Foundation's web page with information about the contest and comments on our local kid's winning entry. Good job, guys!

Grand Lake Water Clarity Report

Grand Lake had long been famous for its amazingly clear water, but that's changed. The Bureau of Reclamation has finalized its Grand Lake Water Clarity Technical Review and Work Plan that addresses concerns of water clarity at Colorado’s Grand Lake. For more information and to access the report, click here.  

Trout Magazine Scam

Some Trout Unlimited members recently received an invoice from Platinum Publishing Service located in White City, Oregon, for renewal of TROUT magazine at a cost of $79.95.This is not a legitimate invoice from Trout Unlimited. TU is based in Woolly Bugger, WV and that's the only place an invoice would originate.

Teaching Kids to Fish

Several TU members were lucky enough to spend much of a day teaching a group of kids about the environment and fly fishing. We met East Grand Middle School science teacher Alex Romanyshyn and his students at Monarch Lake and spent several hours talking about the environment, coaching fly fishing and watching moose. Thanks to Darlene Carter, Jancie & Kent Hughes, Kirk Klancke and Jerry Nissen for participating! For a link to photos, including numerous moose shots, click here.


September 3, 2013 found your web lackey/photographer-in-chief snapping pics of Jon Ewert, a team of DOW employees and volunteers from TU on the Fraser River near Safeway in Fraser. This is shocking (to the fish) because the team was electro-fishing in order to do a thorough inventory of the fish in this segment of the river. The process stuns the fish and allows them to be netted, counted, measured and released. Watching the process and the results was fascinating. Our film crew for the TU documentary The Mighty Colorado River was also on hand gathering content for future episodes. Check our the photos of the event in our photo gallery by clicking here. Watch for the upcoming episode on Grand County TV18 and from their website at

Colorado Declared Most Endangered River in USA

American Rivers announced the Colorado is America's most endangered river. This announcement was the lead story in the most recent Grand County news. Click here to watch the newscast. For more information, instructions on how to make your voice heard and a link to a moving video, click Colorado is US Most Endangered River . Also, please look for more information about the Colorado under our News tab by clicking here

Think Destroying the Colorado to Grow Grass In The Desert is a Good Idea? Don't Read This!

If you are one of the people who prefer lush green lawns in a desert to a healthy natural environment and a river with life in it, you probably don't want to read this. You don't want to be confused by the facts. You're probably one of the many people who prefers opinion based news to information based news. If, on the other hand, you see value in working toward a sustainable balance between urban water use and a sustainable natural environment, click here. 

Windy Gap Letter

Dennis Buechler, the Director Emeritus of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, sent an excellent letter to the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Public Health & Environment Water Control Division on January 2, 2013. He discussed the positives of the December 2, 2012 1041 agreement regarding the Windy Gap Firming project and pointed out some important reasons to remain vigilant about the process. This brief letter is well worth reading and is available here

For more water-related news, go to our News page by clicking here.

Best Article Yet on Threats to the Colorado

  If you only have time to read one article about the plight of our namesake river, click here. To learn much more, go to both our News and Conservation & Science pages on this web site.CTU Action Page  Colorado TU maintains a great list of current issues and events. Here's a link to the Colorado TUAction page.

Older News Still Available  Our Home page was getting too crowded with important news, so some of our older (but still relevant) news has been moved to a new "Archived News" page under the News tab on this web site. Click here to go directly to that page.


Save The Fraser River

  The Fraser River was recently named as the third most endangered river in the US. To find out why, and what you can do about it, keep reading.
  The local town of Fraser was known as the Western Whitehouse during the Eisenhower administration because Ike spent so much of his free time here fishing the Fraser and other local rivers. Today, the Fraser River still offers excellent fishing despite the diversion of the majority of its water. The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited is one of the leaders in the effort to protect the Fraser, the headwaters of the Colorado and the associated cold-water fisheries in a difficult situation. 
  Our members are dedicated to protecting this amazing fishery and environment to the best of our ability. We understand that previous generations of western Colorado residents sold the rights to a substantial portion of the water that originates here to communities on the Front Range of Colorado, and that has consequences for our rivers today. We realize that much of the water which historically flowed through the Colorado to the Gulf of California and the Pacific will continue to be diverted across the Continental Divide to Front Range cities and will ultimately find its way to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. While we would like to see as little water diversion as possible, our efforts are focused on minimizing the effects of that inevitable water diversion on the natural environment. 
  By careful stewardship of our environment and through tireless education, we will do our best to maintain a healthy riparian environment here in Grand County.This website exists, in large part, to facilitate education about the science and the practical aspects of the challenges faced by our rivers and environment. You'll find links to a great deal of information and some suggestions as to concrete steps all of us can take to ensure the long-term health of our rivers and  environment.
  For a link to the Save The Fraser page on this web site, click here.

Defend the colorado

  What can you actually do to help save our rivers? One easy step is simply to sign up on the Defend the Colorado web site and to Like it on Facebook.
  Don’t let the Colorado River go down the drain. Soon, 80% of the Colorado’s water could be diverted from its headwaters to the sprawling cities and suburbs of the Front Range. Only a trickle would be left for fish, wildlife, recreation and the small headwaters communities. Join the fight to protect the Colorado and Fraser rivers and our Colorado way of life.
  Follow this link to the Defend the Colorado website for a wealth of information including links to several video clips by Ted Wood from the Story Group.

Contact Information

Colorado River Headwaters Chapter
Trout Unlimited
PO Box 990
Winter Park, CO 80482-0990

Trout Unlimited Mission Statement

  The Colorado Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited mission is to conserve, protect, and restore the Upper Colorado River and its tributaries for present and future generations.

National Trout Unlimited and Colorado Trout Unlimited

  The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited is an integral part of the network of TU Chapters across the state of Colorado and throughout the country. Our Chapter is especially active for several reasons. The fishing here is wonderful and it is also at risk because of human activity. By working locally and in a broader area with help from TU in Colorado and nationally, we will do our best to protect and preserve our fishing opportunities and the rivers on which we rely. TU is the perfect organization within which we can achieve our goals. If our goals coincide with yours, please consider joining us. Click here for more about becoming a member.

Keep Grand Lake Blue

  Grand Lake (also known as Spirit Lake) is Colorado's largest natural lake and the first stop for the Colorado River as it leaves Rocky Mountain National Park. Like the Colorado and the Fraser Rivers, Grand Lake faces a variety of challenges resulting from human activity. The Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of National TU is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of all our local surface water including this very special lake. Click here for our Grand Lake Home Page.


  Welcome to the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited's web site. Because so many of our members have slow internet connections here in rural Colorado, there are no moving images, flashing banners or the like. There are also relatively few photos on most pages, but there is a photo gallery that we're beginning to populate. If you discover any errors, broken links or etc. please let me know.

  Jerry Nissen, TU Board Member & Chief Web Lackey

TU State & National

For the National TU's website, click here.
For  Colorado Trout Unlimited's website, click here.

Spill or Kill Reporting

Call 800-424-8802  The National Spill Response Center notifies all local agencies

If you see:

  • Any petroleum product in the water
  • Any releases to waterways
  • Any mercury spills
  • Any sanitary sewer releases
  • Any releases that result in injury and/or death
  • Any deliberate releases or dumping