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The Big Thompson River originates on eastern slopes along the continental divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. Tributary streams converge near Estes Park and their flows are temporarily stored in Lake Estes. From there, the river flows into the Big Thompson Canyon dropping 2,000 feet in elevation over 22 miles. The length and steepness of the canyon, along with a mix of private and public lands bordering the river, cause limited pubic access to the river. An exception exists at the Forest Service location of the proposed Learning Station. There, a combination of river and landscape features attracts a high volume of visitors to the site. That station will be designed to attract trout anglers and tourists interested in river ecology. Nearby will be a reconstructed fishing pier, now in progress. With that structure in place during 2018, visitors, both physically able and physically handicapped persons, will be able to safely access the river and encounter the Learning Station modules. In past-years, visitor surveys conducted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife indicated there were as many as 40,000 visitors to the Big Thompson Canyon during a year. The ongoing 2013-flood recovery and restoration projects in lower elevations of the river, and the adjacent Highway 34 reconstruction, are planned for completion by the end of 2018. Thereafter at the Learning Station, its visitor audience will be able to learn about river ecology at this free public education facility. The ecological system of the Big Thompson canyon, and especially its wild trout population, is largely unknown by the general public. This education and outreach project will help remedy this by developing the Learning Station to be placed adjacent to the highway and within view of the river. Its several educational panels will inform visitors of: (1) how the Big Thompson ecosystem works, (2) how the wild trout populations rely on the river’s ecological features, and (3) TU’s role in protecting and restoring the river.

Rocky Mountain Flycasters Chapter

Coy Wylie

5401 Stone Creek Circle
Loveland, CO 80538