Leadville Fish Hatchery a window on Colorado’s past and future | TheFencePost.com

Leadville Fish Hatchery a window on Colorado’s past and future

Julie Sutor
Summit Daily News

Photo courtesy of Mark Fox/Summit DailyEight raceways each containing 12,000-15,000 cutthroat and rainbow trout are a popular attraction on the grounds of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery south of Leadville. The hatchery, which was established in 1889, sees nearly 50,000 visitors a year come through the historic site.

As Colorado’s state fish, the greenback cutthroat trout is a symbol of the Rocky Mountains’ natural splendor. The strikingly speckled, red-throated native fish calls to mind the sparkling high-alpine streams and lakes where the trout makes its home along the Continental Divide.

However, just a few decades ago, few would have guessed the greenback cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki somias) would come to represent Colorado’s wild landscapes. As recently as 1970, the fish was considered to have been extinct for almost half a century.

The greenback – a relatively small member of the trout, salmon and whitefish family – is the only trout endemic to Colorado’s South Platte and Arkansas River drainages. The fish favors the icy, clear waters and rocky bottoms of headwaters streams, where it finds its meals of crustaceans, insects and small fish. Greenback cutthroats once thrived in those waters, but by the late 1800s, white settlers had taken a serious toll in a variety of ways: overfishing; dams; pollution from mining and agriculture; logging; and introduction of competing species.

“The whole intermountain region was being depleted of resources, including fish resources,” said Ed Stege, project manager of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, a facility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Leadville had 30,000 miners and supporting cast members. Back then, there weren’t a lot of regulations.”

As Colorado’s state fish, the greenback cutthroat trout is a symbol of the Rocky Mountains’ natural splendor. The strikingly speckled, red-throated native fish calls to mind the sparkling high-alpine streams and lakes where the trout makes its home along the Continental Divide.

However, just a few decades ago, few would have guessed the greenback cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki somias) would come to represent Colorado’s wild landscapes. As recently as 1970, the fish was considered to have been extinct for almost half a century.

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The greenback – a relatively small member of the trout, salmon and whitefish family – is the only trout endemic to Colorado’s South Platte and Arkansas River drainages. The fish favors the icy, clear waters and rocky bottoms of headwaters streams, where it finds its meals of crustaceans, insects and small fish. Greenback cutthroats once thrived in those waters, but by the late 1800s, white settlers had taken a serious toll in a variety of ways: overfishing; dams; pollution from mining and agriculture; logging; and introduction of competing species.

“The whole intermountain region was being depleted of resources, including fish resources,” said Ed Stege, project manager of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, a facility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Leadville had 30,000 miners and supporting cast members. Back then, there weren’t a lot of regulations.”

As Colorado’s state fish, the greenback cutthroat trout is a symbol of the Rocky Mountains’ natural splendor. The strikingly speckled, red-throated native fish calls to mind the sparkling high-alpine streams and lakes where the trout makes its home along the Continental Divide.

However, just a few decades ago, few would have guessed the greenback cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki somias) would come to represent Colorado’s wild landscapes. As recently as 1970, the fish was considered to have been extinct for almost half a century.

The greenback – a relatively small member of the trout, salmon and whitefish family – is the only trout endemic to Colorado’s South Platte and Arkansas River drainages. The fish favors the icy, clear waters and rocky bottoms of headwaters streams, where it finds its meals of crustaceans, insects and small fish. Greenback cutthroats once thrived in those waters, but by the late 1800s, white settlers had taken a serious toll in a variety of ways: overfishing; dams; pollution from mining and agriculture; logging; and introduction of competing species.

“The whole intermountain region was being depleted of resources, including fish resources,” said Ed Stege, project manager of the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, a facility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Leadville had 30,000 miners and supporting cast members. Back then, there weren’t a lot of regulations.”