By: Taylor Paulson, Intern
The best way to really understand a river is to wade right in. It can be very calming to get away from the busy main streets of town and wander through the tall grass and growing aspen trees to Tomichi Creek. Tomichi Creek is a tributary to the Gunnison River that flows by the town of Gunnison, Colorado, from the Continental Divide and Monarch Pass Area.
Jesse Kruthaupt with Trout Unlimited leads the way to Tomichi Creek. We are conducting a river cross section with a staff gauge in order to begin the flow measurements. We are going to be taking a cross section in order to measure the flow of the creek. Jesse reads the staff gauge to get the reference point for the flow readings and sets up the tagline (a measuring tape that crosses the river to measure the river’s width) perpendicular to the river for an accurate cross section. Once the flow meter is set up to the handheld computing device, each water column can be measured for an average flow which is measured in cubic feet per second. Jesse assesses the cross section of river and determines that average flow measurements will be taken at two feet intervals. This means that each water column is two feet wide and the depth is taken concurrently with the average flow for that given two feet wide section or water column of the creek.
As I assist Jesse with the flow meter, we notice the trout in Tomichi Creek rising to feed on the flies buzzing along the surface. It’s a cooler morning in June but the creek is still low for this early in the year. I can’t help but think of the consequences the valley will face in this low water year. The fish are particularly sensitive to rising temperatures. High flows are great for the trout because the water stays colder and there is more area in the river for the fish to hole-up. In lower flows the temperature fluctuates more easily and forces the fish to drop into the deepest part of the river. This results in more fish in each hole fighting for food sources in a smaller area.
This year I choose to be optimistic and hold out hope that monsoon season treats the Gunnison Valley well while protecting the fish and well as the people living here.