Grand County, Colorado

  • Interviews By
  • Grace Hood
  • Photos By
  • Hart Van Denburg
  • Map
Berthoud Pass
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The view looking north from Berthoud Pass into the Fraser River Valley, early August 2018.

Kirk Klanke Tabernash 1
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Kirk Klanke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited, on a tributary of the Fraser River near his home in Grand County, in late July 2018. Klanke says the environment and conservation are top of mind for him this election year.

“I think, personally, that the environment is the drive engine for this state. Our tourism base, all that money comes because the health of our environment," he says. "And what I would like to see drive, even though there’s so many important issues — transportation’s a mess — keeping our environment healthy has to be one of the most important issues on the minds of our politicians. And I would like to see people get elected just on the grounds that they will be backing environmental work like Trout Unlimited is doing, and try and turn the health of our rivers around.”

Kirk Klanke Tabernash 2
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When it comes to governor's race, “It’s really important for us to have a governor who prioritizes conservation, preservation of the environment that drives our tourist economy. That’s key," Klanke says. “Education is key to a healthy environment. Uneducated people don’t know why it’s so important, and even that the environment is threatened. People need to get educated.”

Kirk Klanke Tabernash 3
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President Donald Trump, “is probably the least environmentally-friendly president we’ve had in my lifetime,” Klanke says. “I loved it when Obama took over the presidency. And I’m a registered Republican, for the record.” Trump, he says, is “bad for the EPA, and the EPA, any progress we’ve made in this county to keep the headwaters of the Colorado River alive has been driven by the EPA. I like a strong EPA.”

Bike Riders Granby
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Bicycle riders on Highway 40 near Granby.

Kremmling Flyfishing
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An angler on the Colorado River east of Kremmling.

Highway 40 Truck
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A truck makes its way north toward Rabbit Ears Pass on Highway 40.

Wolford Mountain Reservoir
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Dawn at Wolford Mountain Reservoir along Highway 40 between Rabbit Ears Pass and Kremmling.

Kremmling Rafting 1
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Downstream from Tabernash, and the Fraser River, Adventures in Whitewater on Kremmling’s main drag is the kind of environment- and tourism-dependent business that Trout Unlimited’s Kirk Krinke is talking about. It runs rafting, fishing and overnight trips on the Colorado, Clear Creek and the North Platte. Justin Scheible has owned the 13-year-old business for five years. Rafting guides with Adventures Whitewater in Kremmling wait their headquarters for clients to arrive for an afternoon trip on the Colorado River, Saturday Aug. 11, 2018.

Kremmling Rafting 2
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Chris Bartsch, a guide with Adventures Whitewater in Kremmling, prepares to unload boars at the Pump House put-in on the Colorado River in Gore Canyon on Aug. 11, 2018.

Kremmling Rafting 3
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

An Adventures Whitewater guide carries oars to her boat at the Pump House put-in on the Colorado River in Gore Canyon on Aug. 11, 2018.

Kremmling Rafting 4
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

“We’ve had a great summer as far as business goes,” Adventures in Whitewater owner Justin Scheible says.

“The water has been quite low across the state, which has fundamentally impacted most of the operations, although that doesn’t exactly show in our business figures,” because he’s been able to move trips around to different rivers parts. Even so, the whitewater experience has been more tame because of low water on the rivers the company rafts on, and the guides can see the effects of low water and high temperatures on river ecosystems. Compounding the problem: most of the water in the Colorado River basin gets diverted out of the watershed, either to the booming Front Range or cities downstream. “Watching the river whither away is what strikes us the most.”

Chris Bartsch, a guide with Adventures Whitewater in Kremmling, helps customers into his boat at the crowded put-in at Pump House on the Colorado River in Gore Canyon Aug. 11, 2918.

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