Fraser River Trail: Always a surprise
July 8, 2011
On Tuesday I biked the Fraser River Trail from downtown Winter Park to Winter Park Resort. I biked this section of the trail several years ago and was pleasantly surprised how lush and beautiful the trail was as it weaves through trees and the Fraser River. I rode past several bikers, runners, and walkers and even spoke to a visitor from Phoenix who admitted he was quite out of breath from the elevation difference. The best part of the bike ride was everyone waved and smiled back to me as I rode. Just about to the resort, I saw three people who looked like they were spin casting with huge fishing rods from a bridge over the Fraser River. I had to stop and find out what they were doing and met Sue Hartley who works for the U.S. Geological Survey at the Colorado Water Science Center.”We were making a discharge measurement and collecting water quality samples,” she said.Along with Kevin Scofield and Nichole Streifel, they were measuring and collecting water-quality samples. Unfortunately, due to high flow conditions, they were unable to wade in the river, so they used the bridge boards to suspend discharge and water quality equipment from cables into the water.”For discharge measurements, a current meter is suspended into the water at 25-30 intervals across the river,” Sue said. “By determining the velocity and area at each section, we can calculate the amount of water flowing at a location at a particular time,” she said. “The USGS has a network of real-time discharge gauges throughout the Fraser Valley. At these locations there is instrumentation that measures gage height- the water elevation. By making discharge measurements at various gauge heights, a relationship between gauge height and discharge can be established.”By maintaining a regular frequency of discharge measurements, this relationship (the rating) can be monitored and updated as river and stream channels change over time. At the real-time discharge gauges, gauge height information is telemetered into our database, the discharge relationship applied, and then real-time gauge height and discharge information can be displayed on the USGS website.” There are several surface water and water quality sites in the Fraser Valley that USGS personnel visit. The site near the Winter Park Resort is a water quality site that is sampled monthly. They analyze these monthly samples for nutrients and chloride. Four times per year, metals (copper, lead, and zinc) are included in the analytical suite.”We report discharge information for each sample event at a flowing water site,” Sue said. “Discharge is the amount of water flowing at a site during a sample event – or at a point in time, as is the case for our discharge-only sites. The samples we collect are submitted to the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory, located in Lakewood, for analysis. The data are available for water managers, and anyone else, from the publicly accessible USGS database.” Anyone can retrieve USGS water quality data: http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/co/nwis/qw”Overall, good management decisions rely on good data,” Sue says. “The USGS provides publicly accessible water data that has been collected in a consistent manner. Long term data sets are important for evaluating and managing resources. The current water quality network in the Fraser Valley has sites with data collection beginning in the 1990s.”I always run into interesting people on all sections of the Fraser River Trail, from seeing friends I haven’t seen for a while while skiing, or out of towners who love to gush about what a great time they are having in Winter Park. But meeting Sue was a highlight. It serves as a reminder that no matter how fast a pace we are running or biking, it’s always good to stop and talk to people. You never know what you will learn.