Animas River impacted by 416 Fire burn scar runoff.

The dirt and ash for the 416 Fire first made its way into the Animas River starting back in mid-July. This year's lack of rain kept the river in pretty good shape until the skies cut loose on a few days around July 17th. That dirty runoff likely killed most of the fish in the river. Fish in the river were already stressed due to the low water levels. The dirty runoff delt the lethal blow. Ash and mud reduce oxygen levels, suffocating the fish, causing them to die.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife recently conducted a fish survey to better understand the extent of the event. During normal years, surveys find somewhere around 40 browns and 40 rainbows in the stretch of the Animas River from Cundiff Park to the High Bridge. Sadly this year, CP&W found only 1 brown and just 1 rainbow trout in that same stretch of the river. In another streach, they found only 4 browns and just 2 rainbows.

The river should recover. Jim White, an aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks & Wildlife says,..." the San Juan Mountains will have a good year for snowpack, which in turn, will give the Animas a good spring runoff to wash out the river and lingering sediment." That should allow for native fish to respawn. CP&W can then restock trout populations. “We can work on bringing the trout population back pretty quickly through stocking.”.

Every fall, Colorado Parks & Wildlife usually stocks about 20,000 rainbow trout and 20,000 brown trout fingerlings in the river. That practice has been canceled this year due to the river's poor condition.

Credit: The Durango Herald