River Restoration

What is River Restoration?

River restoration is the process of returning an aquatic ecosystem back to its original condition and function. Ecosystems are naturally dynamic therefore it is not possible to recreate a system exactly. The restoration process reestablishes the general structure, function, and dynamic but self-sustaining behavior of the ecosystem.

Where We Were

Channelization, heavy metal loadings from mining, instream gravel mining, and impacts associated with urban growth have significantly damaged the San Miguel River in Telluride. Over time, these activities have destroyed aquatic, wetland, and riparian habitats and unbalanced the river so that it cannot recover naturally. To restore the river to a healthier, more responsive, resilient state, the town managed the design and construction of the restoration process.

Where We Are

The San Miguel River Corridor Restoration focused on six project elements:
  • The in-stream sedimentation basin
  • Bank stabilization treatments
  • Wetland creation and improvement
  • Riparian habitats
  • Aquatic habitats
  • Instream hydraulic structures
Continued monitoring has indicated that the system is functioning well. In-stream macro invertebrates are plentiful and fish biomass have increased dramatically, indicating that aquatic habitat has been substantially improved. In-stream structures are dissipating the river’s energy, point bars have formed naturally where expected, and many pools are self-sustaining. Invasive weed infestations have been decreasing and native riparian vegetation is doing well.