As the river winds its way south, it works hard along the way.
Diversions off the river provide water for agriculture and hay fields that have been around for more than a century and provide local food for surrounding communities. A reservoir off the stream provides municipal water for the people of the town of Mount Crested Butte. Washington Gulch flows until its confluence with the Slate River, where its water then gives life to beautiful open space and nearby trails that local residents cherish.
After merging with the Slate River, the water from Washington Gulch joins the East River, and eventually meets the Taylor River to form the mighty Gunnison. In some years, the volume of the Gunnison River can rival the volume of its eventual destination, the Colorado River. Before its confluence with the Colorado River in Grand Junction, it will carve out some of the deepest, longest, and narrowest gorges in the world through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
The new owners wished to move the point of diversion three miles downstream to the Slate River, and the Water Trust worked with them and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (the state water agency) to protect these flows instream along three quarters of a mile of the typically dry Gulch.
Additionally, the project protected two miles of the Slate River, which was also usually stressed at this time of the year. Thanks to the partnership of a local water user, the state, and Colorado Water Trust, we were able to reconnect this stream to help it flow as it naturally should.