The Rio Grande Canal, located near Del Norte, CO, diverts water from the Rio Grande and supplies irrigation water for more than 69,000 acres of agricultural land. The Canal’s low head dam (LHD) diversion structure marks the downstream boundary of the Rio Grande’s Gold Medal reach, which begins in South Fork, CO.
This segment of the Rio Grande is actively used by a variety of recreational boaters and anglers, to which the Canal’s LHD poses significant risks. The diversion structure creates a roughly 10-foot change in the river’s water surface elevation, forming a hydraulic jump that is very dangerous. Currently, there is no formal portage around the Canal’s LHD. As river recreation increases locally, the need for safe portage around this hazard has become increasingly urgent.
This project will improve public safety and enhance recreational opportunities along an important reach of the Rio Grande by installing safety signage and constructing a watercraft portage. This portage solution will also maintain the important fish barrier formed by the Canal, thereby supporting the Gold Medal fishery upstream. Finally, by providing safe passage around the Canal, the Project will allow boaters to utilize the recently completed amenities located approximately 1 mile downstream at the Del Norte Riverfront Park.
In summer 2022, a new and improved emergency portage was installed
upstream of the Canal and new safety signage was installed at and upstream
of the Canal. To alert boaters of the Canal's low head dam. Construction of
the formal wet portage is planned for winter/spring 2023.
1. Construction of a safe takeout and watercraft portage and fencing around the Rio Grande Canal’s LHD;
2. Installation of 14 signs explaining LHD safety and portage directions at and surrounding the Canal and portage;
3. Development of river access maps and outreach to boaters and river outfitters surrounding local river conditions and navigational hazards;
4. Streambank stabilization, riparian revegetation, and installation of aquatic habitat features on a cut bank downstream of the Canal.