In 2006 Dr. Henry Estess initiated development of an ambitious habitat improvement project in the lower meadow of Eagle’s Nest Ranch. Ecological Resource Consultants, Inc. (ERC) worked closely with Dr. Estess to develop a plan which would maximize and diversify wildlife habitat and aquatic resources of the lower meadow along the East River within the ranch. Historic agricultural practices had limited habitat diversity and quality within the lower meadow.

Eagles Nest Plan

Before & After

Photos provide an overview of pre project conditions of the lower meadow area and planned stream channel alignment

Eagles Nest Before

Eagles Nest Before

Eagles Nest After

Eagles Nest Ranch After

 

Overview

The 2,400 acre Eagles Nest Ranch is situated along the East River in Gunnison County, CO. The owner of the ranch wanted to add a high quality side channel fishery to provide additional habitat variety, angling opportunities and waterfowl habitat. ERC was retained to complete all design, permitting and construction. The multi-faceted project created a new 3,600 foot meandering side channel through an existing hay meadow. Each element of the new stream was created to mimic a natural high valley meadow stream. Materials for riffles were derived by sorting excavated river cobble to meet a specification that matched the natural gradation of observed riffle features. Deep, self-sustaining pool habitat was created by taking advantage of the meander pattern of the created channel, energy of the riffles and specific rock placement. Over 2.4 acres of new off channel ponds and 0.5 acres of vegetated wetland habitat were created as part of the overall improvements. Water was delivered to the project via an enhanced diversion off the East River, flow measurement devices required for water rights compliance and a series of culverts and gates to feed the ponds and wetlands.

Construction

Construction of the habitat improvements was initiated on September 10, 2007 and was completed on November 14, 2007.  Project included moving over 30,000 cubic yards of material.

Eagles Nest Stream Construction

Eagles Nest Stream Construction

 

Eagles Nest Riffle Construction

Eagles Nest Riffle Construction

Eagles Nest Pond 1

Eagles Nest Pond 1

Eagles Nest Pond 2

Eagles Nest Pond 2

Improvements

Major improvements included:

  • East River AMAX diversion structure
  • New lower meadow stream channel (3,300 feet)
  • Two open water ponds (over 2 acres)
  • Shallow water wetland habitat (over 0.5 acres)
  • Loop road (1.1 miles)

Ponds & Wetlands

Two ponds were created totaling over two surface acres of water. Ponds were designed as a flow- through system with depths reaching 10 feet in order to maximize trout holding capacity.

Approximately 0.5 acres of shallow water wetland habitat was constructed to increase habitat diversity on the ranch specifically for waterfowl.

Channels

The new stream channel was completed and water turned into the system in November 2008. The C4 type stream channel was created with an average width of approximately 20 feet and designed to create optimal trout habitat at flows between 20-30 cfs.

In total, 22 riffle-pool sequences were created along the 3,300 foot channel.

Eagles Nest Channel

Eagles Nest Channel

Eagles Nest Channel

Eagles Nest Channel

Planting/Staging of trees

In June 2008 native nursery plants were brought in to increase habitat diversity as well as increase pool shading along the new stream.

TreesTrees

  • Colorado Blue Spruce ~36
  • Narrowleaf Cottonwood ~13

Shrubs

  • Chokecherry ~75
  • Western Serviceberry ~75
  • Woods Rose ~50

Wetland Plants

  • Hardstem Bulrush ~3,400
  • Softstem Bulrush ~3,400
  • Three Square Bulrush ~3,000
Eagles Nest Vegetation

Balled & Burlapped Colorado
Blue Spruce for Planting

Results

Eagles Nest Headgate

Eagles Nest Headgate

View of Riffle Bend Pool #15

View of Riffle Bend Pool #15

Eagles Nest Riffle Pool #19

Eagles Nest Riffle Pool #19

View Towards Riffle Bend Pool #15

View Towards Riffle Bend Pool #15