The goal of the Swan River Restoration Project is to reconnect the North, Middle and South Forks of the Swan River by restoring approximately 12,200 linear feet of stream channel and adjacent riparian and upland areas. Existing site conditions comprise a highly disturbed aquatic and riparian upland environment heavily impacted by historic mining activities that dredged the valley bottom and obliterated the channel of the Swan River. The three forks currently lack a surface confluence, as the streams disappear subsurface in the dredge spoils. What remains of the active stream channel was pushed to the north, paralleling an unpaved roadway (Tiger Road/CO Road 6) in a straight ditch where surface flows disappear from mid-summer through the winter. The river corridor contains minimal riparian habitat and is virtually devoid of native vegetation, ecosystem functions, or wildlife habitat values. Approximately 85-90% of the project area is barren cobble with minimal ecological, aesthetic, or recreational appeal.
Reconnecting the three forks of the Swan River holds potential to expand habitat available for cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii), currently confined to the North Fork, thereby increasing the likelihood of long-term survival of this threatened species in the Colorado River watershed. The project also has the potential to directly or indirectly benefit several Colorado species of concern, including bald eagles, mountain suckers, boreal toads, and northern leopard frogs. Utilizing lessons learned from similar projects in the same general area, including restoration of reaches of the Blue River and Ten Mile Creek, this project supports the recovery of threatened and endangered wildlife species and Colorado State species of concern.
The proposed restoration design is based on replication of natural processes, creating a natural, stable river channel meandering though a mosaic of wetland, riparian, and upland habitats. The design includes a variety of in-stream, riparian and upland restoration elements. The restored stream channel will have a bank-full width of approximately 20-25 feet and include in-stream habitat features aimed at increasing aquatic habitat complexity, diversity, and in-stream biomass. Habitat features will include riffles-pools-glides, vegetated banks, and non-structural features such as boulder clusters and large woody debris. In the southeastern limit of the project area, undersized culverts at the Tiger Road crossing near Muggins Gulch will be replaced with a larger crossing to help improve in-stream habitat connectivity and better convey flows. Riparian and upland areas will be revegetated utilizing a successional approach with native seed and plantings aimed at creating an ecologically appropriate, diverse, and sustainable groundcover, shrubland, and forested plant community. The restoration plan also includes provisions for increasing recreational value with a new soft surface trail providing access to the adjacent White River National Forest and restored stream.
The Swan River Restoration project is being broken into four phases. The overall project implementation schedule is contingent upon funding and access to portions of the project crossing private property. Projects of this nature tend to vary in duration, but we are anticipating the following project schedule for the first project phase.
Phase 1 - Reach A