Watson Lake Fish Bypass

A collaborative effort among the participants of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, Morning Fresh Dairy, noosa yoghurt and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is helping to improve the habitat on the Poudre River.

This fish bypass was installed at the diversion dam adjacent to Watson Lake and the CPW fish hatchery nearby. The new fish passage fulfills one of the promises made by the NISP participants to improve the Poudre River, outlined in the NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan.

Crews broke ground on the $850,000 project in December 2018, and it was completed and operating by March 2019.

Through the project, two segments of the river that had been disconnected by the diversion barrier are now reconnected, which will improve several facets of that stretch: ecosystem health, angler access, public safety and public education.

Designed by OneFish Engineering, the fish bypass provides upstream fish movement through the diversion structure for all species present within the river reach, including longnose dace, longnose suckers, white suckers, brown trout and rainbow trout.

Additionally, the State Wildlife Area and Hatchery, where this project is located, receives a lot of visitors, whether they are fishermen, birders or families enjoying nature. Onsite educational material discussing the fish passage will be an important component of the project, providing a learning experience for school children and all other visitors.

Watson Lake Fish Bypass Construction and Groundbreaking

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Helping Fish Travel Upstream

The Watson Lake diversion structure has blocked fish from swimming upstream since the 1960s. By giving them a way around, this fish passage restores more natural conditions, improves the health of the fishery and reconnects 2 miles of valuable habitat. That means stronger fish populations and better fishing opportunities. The gradual slope mimics natural river conditions. Pillars set in the bottom act like boulders to break up water flow. This keeps water moving slowly enough for the smallest, weakest fish to swim upstream against the current. Restoring more natural river dynamics helps both sportfish like trout,and native species like suckers and dace. 

Artwork Courtesy Colorado Parks & Wildlife