Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has announced that Big Thompson Ponds State Wildlife Area (SWA) will open again today, October 4th, after being closed since the flooding of September 2013.
The 51-acre property was completely inundated by water for several days during the flood and took a substantial amount of structural and superficial damage. The property was historically bounded by the Big Thompson River and contained 4 ponds ranging in size and depth. During the flood the property sustained an avulsion (sudden loss of land in contact with water) and the river re-routed through the property destroying 2 of the 4 ponds. The property now has 2 remaining back ponds and about a 1/2 mile stretch of the Big Thompson River. The two remaining ponds will still be managed as a warm water fishery with bass, catfish, and bluegill as the main species. The river will likely repopulate with trout to some extent. In addition, the property will now be managed for more waterfowl opportunity than in previous years, and still has rabbits, doves, warm-water and trout fishing.
During the closure, CPW has had a great deal of work done to repair and improve the property. Flywater River Consulting and Construction worked on emergency stream stabilization before the spring runoff. Area 2 wildlife personnel have worked on the parking areas, roads, bathroom, and debris cleanup. Then, CPW had two volunteer days with approximately 175 volunteers on the property cleaning debris, removing damaged fence, and planting about 500 trees (mostly willow, some chokecherry). Finally, a fencing company replaced the fence based on a survey of the property boundary. In the future CPW will continue to clean up debris and possibly do some stream habitat work to improve the riffle-run structure of that stretch of river.
Caution to all users: the river has changed the property drastically from last year. Water depths are unknown and possible hazards exist. Be prepared for soft ground and lots of mud.
Big Thompson Ponds SWA is located west of I-25 between highway 402 and Highway 34. You must access the property from the frontage road along I-25.
While CPW has done a lot of work over the past months, the property will still require future work and maintenance for years to come. CPW extends their heartfelt thanks to all of the contractors, valued volunteers, and staff who contributed to getting this property open again for the public.