A healthy river is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. These plants and animals live not only in the river, but also along its banks where the trees grow. A healthy Colorado river has many native animals such as cold-water fish, insects, birds, and mammals. These animals form a giant web that depends on natural river flows and a healthy river environment to supply them with food and homes. A healthy river has lots of cool water filled with oxygen. Every few years, extra large flows of water come down the river from melting snow. These large flows clean the river by stirring the river’s gravel bed, flushing out any dirt, algae or trash that may have come into it.
An unhealthy river is just the opposite, mostly due to taking water out of the river. Lower flows cannot flush out the bad stuff, and the river can get too warm in our hot sun. All this takes the oxygen out of the water. Then non-native species, or those that can grow better in warmer water and need less oxygen to breathe, crowd out the native animals. If they cannot move away the natives may die. Lower flows do not let the native trees like cottonwoods drink at the right times for them to stay healthy and produce new trees. When these things happen, people stop loving the river and let other bad things happen to it.
Click on each of the images above to see what a healthy Colorado river and an unhealthy river look like. If you walk or bike along some parts of the Poudre River today you may already see things that look like an unhealthy river. It is not right to let this happen to our friend, the River. Tell your parents that we all need to take the river to the doctor to make it feel better.
Wait a minute! Who is a river doctor anyway? Ask your parents and friends who can be a doctor for the river. Or maybe you now know what your friend the River needs to feel better.