The Story of Washington Gulch
Welcome to Washington Gulch, a small stream near the town of Crested Butte, in Gunnison County. There are beautiful open space trails along this river, where people mountain bike, backpack, snowshoe, ski, camp, hike, birdwatch, ride horses, and more. It is well known for being surrounded by rainbow-colored mountain sides when the wildflowers are in bloom, as it flows south into the town of Crested Butte and passes by the beautiful Whetstone Mountain.
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 water in the Washington Gulch travels far and gives life and purpose to countless plants, wildlife, landscapes, and people. Keeping this stretch of river flowing is important. Before our project, there was a part of Washington Gulch that historically dried up in mid-July each year. But in 2010, a new owner of senior water rights on the river provided an opportunity to boost flows, and project partners called up the team at Colorado Water Trust to see if we could help.
Photo: Black Canyon of the Gunnison – Tony LaGreca
The Slate River runs stronger today because of this project, and we have tracked its impact.
Since 2014, the project has restored
over 570 million gallons
(or more than 1700 acre feet)
of water to this four mile stretch of the Washington Gulch, just before it meets with the Slate River and flows through the town of Crested Butte.
Photo: Confluence of the Slate River and the Washington Gulch (Washington Gulch is the stream on the right)