BLM Colorado

BLM Colorado

Monday, August 22, 2016

BLM Colorado-Surveying Remote Areas


BLM Colorado-Surveying Remote Areas


BLM Colorado Southwest District has many remote places such as the Powderhorn Wilderness Area. This Wilderness area was designated by Congress in 1993.  Within this 47,980 acre area, there are over 129 miles of streams and several mountain lakes. Elevations range from 8,600 to 12,600 feet above sea level.  There are several trails that allow access into the area. The Powderhorn Lakes trail is the most popular trail for access into the area for many uses such as hiking, birdwatching, hunting and fishing. 


Many of these streams and lakes are sought after by small stream anglers looking to enjoy the primitive aspects of wilderness while catching quality fish.  Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) also has a stocking program of Native Colorado River cutthroat trout, in which a plane drops fingerlings into these high mountain lakes.  In order to determine species distribution, size class, and stocking success, BLM fisheries biologists in Southwest District in Colorado were tasked with surveying these lakes and streams this summer.


Lower (left) and Upper (right) Powderhorn Lakes, located at 11,800 feet


Since Southwest Colorado has so many wilderness areas, CPW wildlife officers often utilize horses to help them get into the backcountry.  For a recent trip into the Powderhorn to survey streams and gill net high mountain lakes, CPW Wildlife Officer Brandon Diamond helped us pack in all of our gear needed to backpack electrofish streams and gill net the lakes using his horses and mule.


Boone packed up with two backpack shockers and two gill nets


Since there is no motorized or mechanized travel allowed in wilderness areas, the two main ways of surveying these areas are hauling everything in on your back or utilizing horses.  Although horses add another element of work, they really are worth their weight in gold for these hard to reach places.  Each horse or mule has around 150 pounds of gear on them, something that would take 3-4 people to match.


Life gets tough when horses aren’t available.


CPW Wildlife Officer Brandon Diamond leading the pack string past Lower Powderhorn Lake.

BLM Colorado Southwest District Fisheries Biologist Russ Japuntich sets a gill net at dusk.


CPW Wildlife Officer Brandon Diamond brings in the gill net at dawn. By setting gills nets late in the evening and checking them early in the morning, mortality is greatly reduced.


Colorado River cutthroat trout. This fish was stocked 4 years ago and now offers anglers a great opportunity to catch a species native to Southwest Colorado.


West Fork of Powderhorn Creek


Measuring and weighing fish from West Powderhorn Creek with an attentive audience.


A bull moose watches as we process fish from the gill nets.


For more information about the Powderhorn Wilderness, please visit: