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Mountain News: Defending the (other) Fraser River



FRASER, Colo. — Segments of highway get named after people. Why not rivers, too?

That's the intention in the Fraser Valley, which includes the Winter Park ski area. It's the closest valley of the water-rich Colorado River accessible to metropolitan Denver, which is located on the more arid lee side of the Rocky Mountains. Beginning in 1936, Denver began diverting water — and it hopes to tap even more, up to 80 per cent of the river's annual flows.

Local fishing groups continue to object. As part of their campaign, they now propose to name a three-kilometre segment of the Fraser River after former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower. It would be called the Eisenhower Memorial Reach.

"These are presidential waters, plain and simple," says Kirk Klancke, from the local chapter of Trout Unlimited.

Eisenhower fished the Fraser River and tributary creeks from 1952 to 1955, before he suffered a heart attack. Because his wife, Mamie, was originally from Denver, they vacationed there.

The designation, if approved by the Colorado General Assembly, would "draw attention to the fact that the Fraser River is a pristine environment, pristine enough to have drawn the leader of the free world back in the '50s," Klancke told the Sky-Hi News.

If the river is so designated, it would join the Ronald Reagan Memorial Highway, also known as I-25 as it goes through Colorado Springs. Also in Colorado, the Gerald Ford Memorial Highway goes through Vail and past Beaver Creek, where Ford kept a vacation home. It is otherwise known as I-70.

Cow carcasses a conundrum

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — What now brown cows? That's the question the Forest Service is being asked as it considers the plight of frozen cattle that were found in a cabin near treeline, adjacent to the Conundrum Hot Springs.

At 3,400 metres in elevation, Conundrum is said to be the highest-elevation hot springs in North America. It's 14 kilometres from Crested Butte and about the same distance from a trail originating on the outskirts of Aspen. In March, two cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy snowshoed into the springs and found six dead cows. A Forest Service team got to the site last week and found more.

The working hypothesis of forest rangers is that the cattle wandered away last fall from a herd grazing above Crested Butte and took shelter in the cabin from an early storm. Somehow, the door closed, and the cattle couldn't figure out how to open it. And so they died.

The Forest Service is uncertain about what to do. As people start trekking into the hot springs, the cattle will be moldering, creating a sanitation issue. Plus, there's a strong possibility that black bears, an omnivorous species, will be drawn to the putrid smells for easy meals.