Welcome to our Kawuneeche Group project to re-photograph waterways of the Colorado River headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP). We're using "Citizen Science to confirm stream reaches known to support beaver communities in the past, as documented in photos available through the Grand Lake Area Historical Society (GLAHS).
As a keystone species once prevalent in the Kawuneeche Valley, we know beaver played a starring role in shaping the landscape, especially the Colorado River corridor and flanking riparian wetlands. More than a century ago, Enos Mills documented the value of beaver as hard-working bioengineers capable of remarkable landscape restoration and maintenance in what is now RMNP, benefitting a wide variety of flora and fauna.
However, beaver are now rare in the North Fork of the Colorado River, Kawuneeche Valley included. Their loss has led to cascading impacts upon the watershed ecosystem, including biota, stream flows, and water quality.
Our goal is to better understand past and present ecological conditions along Kawuneeche waterways and see beaver get a fair chance to recover where practicable. Team findings will be shared with RMNP Scientists, helping lay groundwork for working with beaver to naturally restore this magnificent watershed.
You can help us find and re-photograph those places we know beaver once flourished, while enjoying the beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park with family and friends. Once you have found the location and snapped the photo, simply document the location (cellphone GPS coordinates sufficient), direction (facing North, South, East, or West), and any additional observations of the current ecological conditions you may have (we can help connect you with abundant technical resources).
Stay tuned for reference photo sets, soon to be available on this site and grouped according to lower, middle, and upper Kawuneeche Valley.
Team Note: By "beaver restoration" we include conservation actions to protect existing beaver family groups while mitigating nuisance impacts, as well as beaver bioengineering of dams, ponds, and lodges within stream-riparian corridors.