May 2020 | Cache la Poudre River National Heritage Area
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May 2020

Guest Blog: PHA Grant Helps Give UNC Students Practical Skills & Experience in Water Quality Monitoring

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by Alexi Richmond, UNC Undergraduate in Earth Sciences (Class of 2020)

The opportunity to do field work in an undergrad degree is varied and not many students get to assist in research or field work unless it is a requirement of a class. I have been really fortunate to assist my professor this past year and help set up a baseline analysis for future long-term monitoring of the Poudre River in Greeley.

Through this I have learned more skills/practical experience than my whole undergraduate degree combined. I’ve gotten to use devices I never even thought of using such as an GPS, RTK, Flow Meter and of course processing data with Excel. I didn’t realize there was equipment that could calculate such things as measuring cross sections in not only latitude and longitude but as well as elevation so we could see a horizontal view. I also didn’t realize there was such a thing as a flow meter in which it measures the discharge of water; an entire volume of water that moves every second! In class, we had calculated relative discharge with a ping pong ball and a stopwatch and at the time I thought that was just how you took measurements but using the flow meter was a whole other story. It is so much more accurate and it calculates discharge for you which is amazing. It gave me a different perspective on water movement and I feel seeing and doing it first hand I understand the importance of the Poudre River better with how much discharge is even at low flow times.

Throughout this entire project I have come to better understand my local river system and its importance to Northern Colorado. Using equipment has also given me a new perspective through finding how much fun and important collecting data on major rivers can be; possibly giving me a new direction with my degree. I can’t express how grateful I feel to be able to gain skills and experience using real equipment while being able to participate in research, all in my undergrad degree.

River Bluffs Open Space in Windsor, CO is one of the study sites for the UNC Water Quality Monitoring Project on the Poudre River.

 

About the PHA Grant – “UNC Water Quality Monitoring Project”

The lower Poudre River has experienced long-term channel changes associated with land-use practices and flow regulation. At River Bluffs Open Space, Larimer County has partnered with the Coalition for the Poudre River Watershed to hire Stillwater Sciences to restore a 5 km section of river reach. Goals include reconnecting the river with its floodplain and increasing disturbance, good for habitat development. At the Poudre Learning Center (PLC), the PLC has acquisitioned new land adjacent to the river. The PLC plans to use the property for research, education, outreach, and as community open space. PI and collaborators have installed water-quality monitoring equipment, including turbidity that measures water clarity―a proxy for fine sediment suspension―at each site. Comparing the dynamics of fine-sediment at these two sites provides the opportunity to link information about how two contrasting stream reaches are changing through time as a result of differential influences.

The project takes place at River Bluffs Open Space (Larimer County) and the Poudre Learning Center (Weld County). Fine-sediment dynamics influence channel adjustments that can cause flooding or harm aquatic habitat, and is therefore considered a pollutant under the US Clean Water Act. Project goals include 1) training students in water quality measurements and analysis; 2) establishing long-term monitoring stations at two contrasting Poudre River reaches; 3) using water-quality data to understand dynamics of fine sediment; 4) sharing data and results with stakeholders and the community to increase awareness of linkages between land-use/management and river health. This project contributes to PHA’s vision of placing our water management heritage in the context of current management challenges, including multiple stakeholders and uses.

To learn more about the Poudre Heritage Alliance Grant Program and grant award history please visit: https://poudreheritage.org/grant-award-history/

Play It Safe on the Poudre River!

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As the Colorado snowpack starts to melt and rivers and streams across the state begin to rise, its important to remember to Play It Safe on the Poudre!

The Cache la Poudre River offers many miles of incredible recreational opportunities – the scenic river runs from mild (class I-II) to wild (class V), attracting people from around the country to its beautiful waters. However, most people do not understand the dangers that exist while recreating on the river.

The Poudre River presents numerous hazards. Broken or low-hanging tree branches, hidden beneath the water, can snag a person out for a lazy afternoon tubing trip. Freezing waters made cold by spring runoff can cause a person to react slowly, when quicker action is needed, or possibly suffer hypothermia. And deceptively fast-moving waters pose a drowning risk to even the most experienced swimmers.

“The Poudre River is a source of local pride that draws thousands to its waters each year. We wouldn’t dissuade peoples’ love for it and what it represents. But the river is equal parts beautiful and destructive. Its power is easy to underestimate, and river-related tragedy can befall anyone at any time,” said former Poudre Fire Authority spokeswoman Madeline Noblett.

The Play It Safe on the Poudre program raises awareness about approaches to recreating on the river in safe and sustainable ways, and helps to build the capacity of the Poudre Fire Authority and Larimer County rescue teams. The program also calls attention to the history of in-river structures that represent hazards to recreation.

 

Play It Safe on the Poudre principles:

  1. Wear a life vest
    • Use proper floatation devices
    • Wear shoes
    • Wear a helmet
    • Don’t tie anything to yourself or your tubes
  2. Safe to go?
    • Know the weather and water conditions
    • The water is melted snow – it’s always cold!
    • Avoid rocks, branches, logs and debris in the river
  3. Know where you are
    • Take a map
    • Plan your take-out location before you get in the river
  4. Float sober, float safe
    • Alcohol and drugs impair judgement
  5. Be Courteous
    • Pack it in; Pack it out
    • Share the river
  6. What if you flip?
    • Don’t stand up in the river; avoid foot entrapment
    • Float on your back with feet pointing downstream and toes out of the water
    • Use your arms to paddle to shore

 

Download a River Access and Safety Map

Other representatives who have taken part in the group’s efforts represent: Poudre Fire Authority; multiple departments within the City of Fort Collins, including the city’s Natural Areas Department; Larimer County; the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office and Larimer County Emergency Services; Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and more.

For more info please visit www.poudreheritage.org/playitsafe