Restore Sand Creek to Rio Grande Native Fish Species

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve » Restore Sand Creek to Rio Grande Native Fish Species » Document List

The Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) (RGCT) is a trout that is native to the cold stream mountain waters of the Rio Grande Basin. This trout represents the southern-most native subspecies of the known 14 subspecies of cutthroat trout in western North America. These salmonids once played an essential role in the aquatic riverine ecosystems of the streams making up the Rio Grande Basin. The RGCT is believed to be the first North American trout to be documented, recorded by a member of Coronado's expedition in 1541. To the present, native trout species have undergone drastic declines in their distributions, often limited to less than 5-10% of their native range. The decline in distribution and population numbers is primarily due to habitat degradation, over-fishing, as well as introduction of non-native trout. While currently not listed as a T&E species, it was petitioned for listing as an endangered species in 1998. Because the RGCT is recognized as having undergone a considerable loss in viable habitat, as well as distribution, it is listed as a Species of Special Concern by the State of Colorado's Division of Parks and Wildlife (CDPW). GRSA falls within the Rio Grande drainage, and supports suitable native salmonid habitat. GRSA's role in establishing the Sand Creek drainage as an important reintroduction site, as well as a refugia for the RGCT, is the purpose of this proposal. This project would remove the exotic trout in the Sand Creek drainage and stock the creek with the native RGCT. In 2010, 13 man made ponds were removed from the mouth of the creek in order to eliminate the habitat of the tubifex worm, an intermediate host of the whirling disease pathogen. With this disease cycle now broken, the creek can be reclaimed with the native trout. This will allow some of the most outstanding catch and release cutthroat trout fishing for park visitors in a native fishery

Contact Information

Fred Bunch (719) 378-6361