The Arkansas River’s New Channels For Humans And Fish Alike Are Working Swimmingly

August 14, 2020
An aerial photo of the Homestake Arkansas River Diversion, located near Granite.An aerial photo of the Homestake Arkansas River Diversion, located near Granite.Courtesy of Tom Hankins/Colorado Springs Utilities
A $9.1 million project to improve safety for people and aquatic life on the Arkansas River was completed this spring.

A $9.1 million boat chute and fish channel built on the Arkansas River is helping travelers and native fish populations navigate the waterway more safely. 

The project's construction started in 2018 as a collaboration between multiple conservation and wildlife groups. Colorado Springs Utilities and Aurora Water spearheaded the project, while Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board provided $1.2 million in funding.

The river now has three new channels north of Buena Vista, including one for improved safety for kayaking and whitewater rafting. People can now travel via the river from Leadville to Cañon City for the first time since the 1960s.

In a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Tom Waters of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area called it a "huge improvement," allowing boaters to avoid having to carry their crafts around the old structure.

Another channel is a fish chute that helps rainbow and brown trout migrate upstream to spawn. Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologists plan to study the chute's effectiveness during the breeding season which, according to the National Park Service, typically lasts from October through December.