Riverside Majesty is A Symbol of Luck

While the American robin is often considered the classic harbinger of spring, it’s the red-winged blackbird that strikes the hearts of many this season with its distinctive call. Few birds evoke as much fascination and mystery as they do, with their glossy black plumage and vibrant red patches on their wings. But what adds to their allure is the rich tapestry of folklore that surrounds them, casting the red-winged blackbird as a symbol of protection, good luck and prosperity.

In ancient tales and legends across cultures, the red-winged blackbird plays a prominent role as a symbol of good luck and fortune. In Native American folklore, their distinctive call, reminiscent of a creaking door or rusty hinge, is believed to be messages from the spirit world, bringing joy and abundance to those who encounter them.

But why is the red-winged blackbird associated with good fortune? Some believe it’s because of its striking appearance, with its bold red patches symbolizing vitality and energy. Others attribute its lucky status to its adaptability, thriving in diverse and sometimes harsh habitats and weather conditions all over North America. For generations, Native Americans have held a deep respect for this bird due to its courageous nature in facing danger without wavering or succumbing to fear.

Furthermore, red-winged blackbirds symbolize abundance and prosperity in many cultures. Its arrival signifies the promise of a new start—farmers welcome it as a sign that their crops will flourish, while fishermen view it as a promise of plentiful catches.

In addition to their cultural importance, red-winged blackbirds are crucial to the environment. They play a vital role in preserving ecological balance by controlling insect populations and dispersing seeds. Farmers benefit from red-winged blackbirds during breeding season because these birds consume a significant number of insects.

Despite the good luck the red-winged blackbirds seem to bring, they could use a little luck themselves. These birds face various threats, including habitat loss and climate change. In just 52 years, the population has declined by 92 million. To ensure their survival, it’s crucial to protect the rivers, streams, wetlands and marshes they rely on.

So, the next time you encounter a red-winged blackbird perched along the riverside or hear its call echoing through a marshland, take a moment to appreciate the beauty and significance of this remarkable creature. Remember that beyond the realm of myth and legend, the red-winged blackbird plays a vital role in the web of life, reminding us of the interconnectedness of all living—and perhaps even spiritual—things.

As we celebrate the presence of the red-winged blackbird, let’s also come together to cherish the rivers, streams, marshes, wetlands and other bodies of water that sustain us all—flora and fauna included. For in the delicate balance of nature lies the true essence of prosperity and good fortune.

G50 Boat Ramp: Bridging Gaps and Enhancing Access with Conservation 

With funding from Forever Our Rivers, a new boat ramp offers easy access to the Gunnison River in Colorado. For those who don’t know, nearly one-third of kids live in poverty on Colorado’s Western Slope. Usually, this cascades into a lack of time in nature and its life-enriching benefits, making our hearts sad. Thankfully, a new boat ramp will be a game-changer for the people of Delta, Montrose and Olathe. After all, the rivers are for all of us.

And for those skeptics worried that a new boat ramp might harm the environment, don’t worry! Native trees and shrubs were planted along the river banks, creating a beautiful new area ideal for leisurely walks, picnics, birding and a genuine connection with nature. Plus, local volunteers were entrusted with the responsibility of looking after this spot, giving them the knowledge of how to keep it in tip-top shape.

Bridging Gaps for Underserved Communities

The strategically located boat ramp project along G50 Road, just 3.5 miles from Delta’s town boat ramp, expands accessibility to new demographics. Prior to the installation of the new boat ramp, river users accessed the Gunnison River from the Confluence Park boat ramp in Delta. However, the next legal exit point downstream was a whopping 14 miles away. While this might sound like an adventurous day out for some, it could be overwhelming and unsafe for those with less river experience. The creation of a shorter float with official put-ins and take-outs now allows families and beginners to enjoy a safer river experience. And hopefully, as they experience and enjoy the river, they will fall in love with and care for it.

Not into floating? The improved access area is a great place for walks, lunches, reading, drawing or other outdoor activities you might enjoy along a river. This transformation is thanks to dozens of students from Paonia and Delta middle schools and community volunteers. They helped cultivate and plant cottonwood and plum trees, as well as alders and willows. As the new plants grow, it will become increasingly special for birdwatching. Which, by the way, is just as good for you mentally as being on the water! More volunteers are always welcome, so if you want to help the new cottonwood and willows survive, reach out to some key players in this project—Libby at Colorado West Land Trust (CWLT) or Jake at the Western Slope Conservation Center (WSCC). 

“The new G50 Boat Ramp project is a great example of generating greater recreation access to nature while enhancing wildlife habitat. We look forward to the collaboration of bringing more folks of all ages together to enjoy the river and help with restoring the native plants,” exclaims Libby, program manager at CWLT.

Collaboration Is Key

The property on which the picnic area and boat ramp are is owned by Delta County and protected with a conservation easement managed by CWLT. “Restoring riparian ecosystems is extremely important for sustaining rivers and wildlife in western Colorado. The G50 project provides an excellent opportunity to connect the community to the Gunnison River and help re-establish vital habitat”, said Jake. Knowing this land could do so much more for people and wildlife, WSCC, along with CWLT and the county, got to work.

A Lasting Impact

The G50 Boat Ramp and Habitat Improvement Project, fueled by funding from Forever Our Rivers, is sure to have a positive impact on the community. As more people come to know the Gunnison River, more people will learn to cherish it. How’s that for jump-starting some environmental love? We are so proud of these local organizations. They successfully demonstrated the power of collaboration, conservation and community. We definitely love that!

Delta County is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebration this spring. While the date is yet to be determined, stay connected with these organizations—info below. Or contact Delta County if you’d like more details.

If you’re interested in supporting other projects like the G50 Boat Ramp, please give today.

Follow the Western Slope Conservation Center on Instagram and Facebook. Follow Colorado West Land Trust on social, too—Instagram and Facebook.

Surviving the Chill: The Marvels of Cold-Weather Stream Life

During winter, rivers and streams are often thought of less as we’re holed up in our homes, cozy under blankets next to a roaring fireplace. However, magic is happening out there. In the frigid embrace of below-freezing temperatures, bodies of water transform into icy landscapes, presenting a challenging yet opportunistic environment for plants and wildlife. 


When the cold sets in and ice blankets the water’s surface, vegetation along rivers and streams starts winter dormancy. Many plants retreat into a state of suspended animation, conserving energy by losing leaves until the thaw of the spring. But, beneath the frozen surface, their roots continue to sustain life by holding onto water and waiting for warmer days. The submerged plants decompose, providing food for aquatic life during winter months.  

Deep in the river beds, bacteria and other decomposers take advantage of the lower oxygen levels and begin to clean house. Leaves and other organic materials that fell in the Fall start breaking down into new sediment. This sediment will ultimately feed new plant growth life as the seasons change and warm up again.


For wildlife inhabiting the frigid landscape of frozen streams and rivers, adapting to winter’s icy embrace becomes a matter of survival. Aquatic species such as fish become sluggish, slowing their metabolism to conserve energy in the face of limited food. Trout seek out deeper pools where the water remains relatively unfrozen, providing a refuge against the cold. The cool part about cold-blooded fish like trout, salmon and pike is they can adjust their body temperature to the environment in which they live. Therefore, even at low temperatures, their bodies allow them to swim easily, even if they are a little slower. 

Amphibians and some insects, on the other hand, may hibernate in terrestrial habitats surrounding the water bodies, awaiting the warmer temperatures of spring. They employ various strategies, from burrowing into the soil to seeking refuge in decaying vegetation, to endure the harsh winter conditions.

The icy cold:

While winter poses challenges for both flora and fauna, the ice itself plays a crucial role in maintaining aquatic ecosystem health. Ice acts like an insulating layer, protecting the water beneath from extreme temperature fluctuations which could ultimately harm aquatic life. In some areas, where cold enough, the frozen surfaces of streams and rivers can offer more room to roam as they become winter highways for certain species. Animals like coyotes, foxes and elk can travel more efficiently in search of harder-to-find food or suitable shelter. 

Truthfully, we think rivers and streams are just as, if not more, beautiful in the winter than in the summer. It’s captivating to think about the adaptability of nature during this time. It’s also important to remember that while most river projects and activities happen in the warmer months, the winter should not be forgotten. Important changes happen then, too. It’s essential to recognize and appreciate the resilience of plants and wildlife that endure and thrive amid frosting conditions. It’s up to all of us to keep our rivers healthy in every season so that when winter circles back around, plants and wildlife that depend on our rivers are set up to thrive.

Ideas to help rivers in the winter:

  • Avoid excessive use of de-icers and salts.
  • Conserve water. 
  • Avoid clearing vegetation along riverbanks. 
  • Support conservation organizations like Forever Our Rivers.
  • Practice responsible winter fishing.
  • Report and clean up pollution.

Happy New Water Year!

Photo by Jennifer Blazis Photography

Have you ever found yourself by a river thinking, “Wow, this year, the river seems to be so much higher!” But what does “this year” really mean in the world of water and why should you even care about this concept known as a water year?

What’s a Water Year?

First things first, a water year isn’t your regular January-to-December kind of year. Nope, it’s a bit different. A water year begins on October 1st and ends on September 30th of the next year. Feels like a strange concept, right? But there’s a good reason for it—a scientific one! True water action starts in the fall, not in January, and precipitation that falls later in the year, combined with summer rain makes up the water year. Scientists use water years to keep track of how much water falls from the sky (in the form of rain or snow) in specific areas like the headwaters of the Colorado River. This information is used in determining how it is used or protected.

Why Does It Matter?

Now, you might be wondering why you should care about water years. Well, water is super important! It’s not just for drinking; it helps our crops grow, keeps our rivers flowing and supports wildlife like beavers, trout and elk. So, understanding how much water we have is crucial for all sorts of things, from farming to angling and rafting. It is also crucial to know the stream flows in order to protect the environment.

Measuring Stream Flows

Okay, here’s the fun part! During a water year, scientists use all sorts of sophisticated gadgets to measure how much water is in our rivers and streams. They use devices like flow meters and rain gauges to figure out how fast streams are flowing and how much water they carry. It’s basically embarking on a watery detective mission! 

Why Rivers and Streams?

They might just look like gentle, flowing ribbons of water, but they’re essential. They’re like nature’s plumbing system, carrying water to where it’s needed. They are measured to make sure there’s enough water for people, animals and plants to survive.

So, there you have it—a water year is like a special calendar for keeping tabs on Mother Nature’s waterworks. It helps us make smart decisions about how we use water and take care of our environment. Pretty cool, right? Next time you’re near a river or stream, you’ll know a little secret about how we keep track of water all year round.

Tributaries to the Colorado River get a funding boost 

Photo by Omar Salmon

Forever Our Rivers is excited to announce grants totaling $169,591 to support the restoration efforts in the Dolores, Escalante, Verde and Gila rivers spanning Colorado, Utah and Arizona. Restoration will focus on removing thick stands of invasive trees and bushes.

Invasive species wreak havoc on river systems. Some plants, like tamarisk, form dense thickets and grow to 20 feet. They bring fire danger to the river because their growth includes high levels of dead leaves and branches. And that’s not all! They make themselves at home by aggressively colonizing. Their leaves deposit salt above and below the soil, making it difficult for native species to survive. 

Tamarisk is not the only problem; Russian olive, tree of heaven, Siberian elm and many more species absorb large amounts of water, create dams that block water flow and destroy native vegetation. Plus, thickets of invasives make it difficult for recreationists to access the river.

Without native species, a river runs down a slippery, unhealthy slope that reduces its ability to function and deliver ecosystem services properly. What does that mean? Well, to start, both water quality and quantity decline.

Plus, native species, from bugs to butterflies, fish and frogs, even elk and beaver cannot survive or breed without their appropriate, native food and nesting sites. 

More than 4,988 acres across these Colorado River tributaries have been treated and thousands of the nasty invasive plants have been destroyed due to a long-standing partnership between Forever Our Rivers, the Walton Family Foundation and Conservation Legacy. 

Ann Johnston, the executive director of Forever Our Rivers Foundation, aptly observed, “Restoration is a process that happens over time, almost always extending beyond the timelines of individual projects. That is one reason this award is so important”. 

Included in the grant award are funds for strike teams. These teams check out the four river areas annually to see how things are going. “One of the most important tasks for strike teams is to collect data about previous years’ noxious plant treatments and native regrowth,” said Johnston. “Think of the strike teams as nature detectives, collecting the past data, identifying which treatments are most successful and altering processes going forward to reflect that.” 

On-the-ground restoration is accomplished by RiversEdge West of Grand Junction, CO, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners of Escalante, Utah, and in Arizona, the Friends of the Verde River and Gila Watershed Partnership.

Celebrating Colorado River Day all across the United States

July 25th is just around the bend, and guess what? It’s Colorado River Day! Time to celebrate the incredible natural wonder that is the Colorado River, a lifeline that quenches the thirst and fills the bellies of millions of folks across the country. 

Picture this: a majestic river originating way up high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, embarking on a 1,450-mile adventure through seven states that ends in Mexico’s Gulf of California in Mexico. Quite the journey, right?

Now, here’s a fun fact for you trivia lovers. The Colorado River didn’t always rock its current name. Nope! On July 25th, 1921, Congress decided to ditch the “Grand” and embrace the new identity as the Colorado River. And that’s why we gather on this special day to show our appreciation for this invaluable resource flowing right through the heart of the American West.

You might be thinking, “Well, I’m not one of those people relying on the Colorado River for my daily H2O fix”. Fair point. But pause for a moment and think about some of the delicious winter fruits and veggies you eat during the frosty months. Produce like leafy greens, apples, stone fruits, and tomatoes owe a debt of gratitude to this mighty river. Farms depend on the Colorado River to keep their thirsty crops hydrated when the winter drought hits. You can’t deny the impact this waterway has had on your taste buds.

But wait, there’s more! The Colorado River is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts—fishing, rafting, kayaking and hiking. If you’ve ever visited the West and dabbled in any of these activities, you’ve felt the river’s embrace firsthand. It’s a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

And, let’s not forget about our fellow river-dwellers—the wildlife! The Colorado River is a bustling metropolis for thousands of species. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Challenges like low flows, drought, and rising temperatures have created quite the rapids for some of our critters out there. We’re here to share three that are impacted by the Colorado River that we’d like to keep around.

First is the little brown bats. Now, these guys aren’t typically known for their direct Colorado River connections, but they’re insectivorous heroes found in forests, woodlands, and even urban areas. They rely on water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams for drinking and foraging purposes. Without sufficient water, the diverse insect buffet dwindles, and the bat population suffers. We’d like to keep them around to help balance out those pesky bugs that annoy us often in the summer months.

Next on the list is the cutthroat trout, a fish native to the Colorado River Basin. They’re all about clean, cold water with a side of gravel or rocky substrates for successful reproduction. A healthy river means a variety of aquatic insects, invertebrates, and other fishy delights for these trout to eat. The river also serves as a vital migration corridor, allowing cutthroat trout populations to mingle and explore different sections of the river system.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the Yuma clapper rail, an amazing bird on the endangered species list. These fine feathered friends rely on marshes, wetlands and riparian areas along the Colorado River for their habitat. The rail loves dense emergent vegetation like cattails and bulrushes, found in areas along the river. These lush spots provide the perfect environment for the rail’s favorite delicacy—the aquatic and semi-aquatic invertebrates. Bird lovers everywhere dream of catching a glimpse of this henlike beauty.

So, as July 25th approaches, let’s take a moment to reflect on the immeasurable ways the Colorado River nourishes us and our wildlife. No matter where you are in the States, this lifeline of the West impacts us all. Thankfully, organizations like Forever Our Rivers step up to the plate, working tirelessly to restore and protect the river’s health. It’s a shared responsibility—one that we should cherish and safeguard for present and future generations all across the United States.

Cheers, friends! Here’s to the Colorado River, a force of nature that keeps on flowing, connecting us all in its watery embrace. Wishing you a happy Colorado River Day on July 25th!