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High river flows good for bugs, wildlife

Jun 22, 2015

High river flows have caused flooding at the North Star Nature Preserve east of Aspen. It's good news for the river and surrounding environment.
Credit Cornelia Carpenter

Bugs and wildlife are benefiting from higher-than-normal rivers in the Roaring Fork watershed. Heavy rain and snowmelt have boosted flows to flood stage in some areas. It’s positive for the river ecosystem.

River flows are above average on the Roaring Fork, Frying Pan, Crystal and Colorado rivers. It’s good news for water quality and wildlife habitat along the riverbanks. The flows knock away dirt buildup in the spaces between rocks on the riverbed. Rick Lafaro with the Roaring Fork Conservancy says that’s where bugs live.

"Bugs are the canaries in the coal mine for us. The macroinvertebrates or the mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies that live in the rivers are excellent indicators of good water quality."

When rivers overflow, the extra water helps vegetation grow along the riverbank, an important area for wildlife like big horn sheep and mule deer. Lafaro says typically the rivers get scrubbed with healthy runoff each spring. However, overbanking flows that flood riparian areas, like at Aspen’s North Star Nature Preserve, are less common.