Dam Bioblitzing: The Scouting Mission


Today is Earth Day, the perfect holiday to kick off a little Blogger Bioblitzing for National Wildlife Week. All around our bumpy sphere, people are going out and getting intimate with nature. Like many other bloggers, I've been scouting out the perfect places to bioblitz.

In Colorado (as everywhere else) ecology depends on the water... and there just isn't much to go around. The earliest humans who lived along the Front Range kept constantly moving, letting the limited natural resources replenish as they went along. Later, fur trappers and miners settled in the region, and eventually ranchers and farmers. Their need for water (most especially the farmers) was much greater than the original residents. In order to adapt to the arid climate, they built a series of canals, aqueducts and tunnels, to bring water from the wetter Western Slope. On the plains, they built dams and reservoirs to retain what precious waters they could. Today, the sprawling suburbs along the Front Range still depend on this vast canal system for survival.

I'm fascinated by these canal systems, their effects on our natural creeks and local habitats, as well as their use to, well, those of us who live in these valleys. So, for this year's bioblitz, I decided to compare two wetlands near my home. I've labeled them "Site A" and "Site B" for convenience; more specific descriptions (and maps!) follow below. Over the next week, I'll be counting various organisms in the two spots, seeing how vastly they differ, as well as adding them to a greater Blogger Bioblitz tally. (Use this form if you'd like to do your own bioblitz.) I don't really plan to be all-inclusive in my approach, but I do plan to get a good representative sample of each site.


Site A

Cove at Standley Lake Reservoir (39°51'21.00" N 105°06'34.00")


A small cove, on the southeast corner of the lake. Just to the west of the spot, the Croke Canal feeds the reservoir. To the east, 88th avenue runs along the top of the ridge. The lake level varies, often cutting off the cove from the rest of the lake. This time of year, it is full and flowing.


This spot is a typical shortgrass prairie ecosystem, butting up against the artificial dam. The lake is stocked with trout, while migrating waterfowl rest along the shores. You can find Canadian geese year round, as well as pelicans, great blue herons, and an array of smaller shorebirds and songbirds. Vegetation includes a variety of grasses, plus prickly pears and small wildflowers.


A dirt trail running along the shore at Site A. The cove and inlet from the Croke canal are visible in the distance.

Site B

Big Dry Creek at Wadsworth (39°52'30.00" N 105°05'48.00")


Just downstream from Standley Lake, Big Dry Creek meanders to the west. Just before it crosses the first major thoroughfare, Wadsworth Parkway, beavers have constructed a series of dams, creating a lush wetland.


This area contains a similar shortgrass prairie ecosystem, inhabited by a colony of prairie dogs. The riparian ecosystem created by the series of dams attracts a wild variety of life, including the same species mentioned above, but in greater abundance.


This image shows the widest beaver dam along the site, also labeled in the map above.

Up next, meet some of the wildlife living at Site B.

Satellite images via Google Earth. All other images by the author.

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