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Natural Areas

The City of Fort Collins, in partnership with Colorado State University, is working to replace a damaged diversion structure at the Colorado State University Environmental Learning Center (ELC) to keep water flowing through a small side channel of the Cache la Poudre River. This work was critical for maintaining a water right that keeps flows in the Poudre River for fish, wildlife, and recreation at the ELC.

Purpose of the Project#

The ELC Flow Restoration Project was necessary to maintain the City’s ability to keep water in the river at this location. Protecting this water right ensures the ELC continues to provide outstanding environmental education opportunities and that there is high-quality habitat for wildlife and native plants in the heart of Fort Collins.

A map showing the locations affected by the flow restoration project.

The CSU Environmental Learning Center uses the Cache la Poudre River to offer environmental education opportunities to youth throughout the community.

Plains Topminnow are small, rare native fish that live in Poudre River at the ELC.

Benefits to the Cache la Poudre River#

Outline of Poudre River and ELC Channel

The City is committed to responsible stewardship of the beloved Cache la Poudre River.

Protecting instream river flows is a top priority for City Council and this project ensures that water remains in the Poudre River and the small ELC side channel. This project supports higher flows in the ELC reach, which previously experienced very low flows in the fall and winter.

Credit: CPW- Andrew Treble

The ELC Project will benefit native fish.

The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas received a $199,879 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to improve habitat for the Plains Topminnow in conjunction with the ELC Flow Restoration Project. The Plains Topminnow is declining locally and throughout the state and is considered a Tier 1 Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Natural Areas staff, along with support from Colorado State University and Colorado Parks and Wildlife fish biologist, will reintroduce the native Plains Topminnow into small, constructed pools at the ELC. 

The City is committed to partnering with CSU to increase accessibility, inclusivity, and safety at the ELC.

Funding from a Nature in the City grant will improve accessibility at the site by adding ADA parking stalls, ramps, and trail improvements.

2022 Update: ADA Access Completed!#

ADA accessible parking and river viewing platform

Come check out the new ADA parking stall and grading at the ELC! Visitors in mobility devices can now park in a paved parking spot and connect to the paved Poudre Trail or the newly graded soft-surface ELC trail system. Funding for this project was provided by Nature in the City.

Project Timeline#

  • September 2020: Initial repair work removed approximately 20 cubic yards of material from the mouth of the side channel. The mouth of the channel contains cobble, gravel, and a patch of non-native reed canary grass. All work was done when the channel was dry to avoid impacts to fish, macroinvertebrates, and water quality. 
  • 2022: The City and its partners have completed a draft 100% design for the project.
  • 2022-23: Construction of the new diversion structure will take place in 2022 and 2023.

Learn More#

For project specific questions, call 970-416-4348 or email Bernadette Kuhn at

To learn more about the ELC, visit their website.