Between 2009 and 2013, Gunnison Gorge Anglers collaborated with stakeholders to redesign the diversion structure located 4 miles below the North Fork confluence with the main branch of the Gunnison River. The existing structure was operated by the Relief Ditch Irrigation Company in service of a senior water right, a benefit of which is keeping minimum flows in the Gunnison. The diversion, however, created challenges for fish and fishermen alike. The structure featured many vertically placed railroad ties that were a significant hazard to boaters. It created a significant drop in the river, impassable to fish and an additional hazard to boaters. Heavy equipment frequently entered the river to restore the diversion after high water washouts.

A lengthy collaboration involving critical diplomacy between river users and agricultural interests resulted in the redesign and reconstruction of the diversion, completed in spring 2013.

Since completion of the project, the Relief Ditch Irrigation Company has not had to put any heavy equipment into the Gunnison River and has received their full share of water. Fish are freely moving through the diversion since the velocity and drop of the water flow has been significantly reduced. No concrete grouting of the rocks placed in the river was required, which provides resting sites and easy passage for fish. Floaters are no longer having their boats flipped or impaled while negotiating the diversion.

This project represents a major collaborative effort involving multiple participants and went a long way toward building a level of trust between water users in the lower Gunnison basin and Trout Unlimited. Hopefully it will be a springboard to more projects in the future. It would not have been successful without the involvement of local chapter members on the ground, Colorado Trout Unlimited staff, and national Trout Unlimited.


Gunnison River Diversion Dam Before


Gunnison River Diversion Dam After