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Respect the River/Rio — Forest Programs

White River National Forest

Dillon Ranger District

Lake Dillon

Aquatic Reporting Summaries

Miners Creek, Snake River & Keystone Gulch (PDF, 98kb)

NF & Mainstem Swan (PDF, 84kb)

North Fork & Mainstrem Swan River (PDF, 90kb)



The Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest began implementing the Respect the River program in 2010 to mitigate the impacts to aquatic resources from extensive public use. The program is being used to provide education to the public, who may be unaware of the damage they are causing, and to restore and monitor impaired habitat. A main concern of the district is protecting cutthroat trout, which is a native species that is threatened due to habitat loss and the introduction of non-native species.

Also, various informational brochures and a kiosk have been placed in the front lobby of the office to inform campers before they get to the dispersed campgrounds that they are expected to pack-out what they pack in and can prepare to do so.


The Dillon Ranger District offers many recreation opportunities near rivers and lakes, which attracts dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is problematic because sites are frequently overused and unmanaged. Often, dispersed camping occurs near water and this can have many negative impacts on the riparian zone including:

  • Compacted soil Soil can become compacted by vehicles and by people going off designated trails. Compacted soil cannot support natural re-vegetation, and with no riparian vegetation the soil can erode and be swept into streams. Too much sediment in a stream can impact the ability of fish to feed and reproduce.
  • Unstable banks. Campsites that are too close to a lake or stream can cause the banks to fall apart.
  • Habitat alteration. Stream habitat is adversely altered by user created dams and by users removing firewood. Dams can interrupt fish migration that is necessary for spawning. Removing wood from streams removes an inflow of nutrients and removes fish habitat.

Solutions and Opportunities

The main solution that will help minimize impacts of dispersed camping is by increasing education. Brochures have been distributed and signs have been posted to alert campers to the fact that camp sites need to be located a minimum of 100 feet away from water. Additionally, signs notify campers about the proper disposal of waste, and about respecting restoration sites. A major component of education efforts has been establishing many partnerships with organizations that are also interested in maintaining healthy watersheds including the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, The Blue River Watershed Group, Keystone Science School, Trout Unlimited, and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Another part of solving dispersed camping problems is restoring areas that have already been damaged. The Dillon Ranger District has undertaken many restoration projects to protect and respect its rivers. Such projects include the decommissioning of roads, scarification of compacted soil to promote re-growth, and the building of buck and rail fences to protect sensitive habitats. The goal of all of these restoration projects is to minimize the areas of compacted soil and to increase riparian vegetation.


The future goals of the Dillon Ranger District’s Respect the River program focus on continuing the education and restoration projects that have already been implemented. We plan to expand the program by making use of all our partners and volunteers to spread the word on how to be good stewards of our forest. We hope that by continuing our education and restoration efforts we will be able to maintain healthy riparian zones and waterways so that both recreational users and the animals that call the streams home can enjoy them for generations.

Main Contacts

Corey Lewellen
Fisheries Biologist
Dillon Ranger District




U.S. Forest Service
Last modified: April 12, 2012

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