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Local nonprofit flies to protect Crystal River

The Crystal from above
Courtesy image of EcoFlight
The Crystal from above

"The head gate of the Sweet Jessup Canal is sort of the marker for where the Wild and Scenic eligible section begins. It's a
little bit above that head gate. And that was the, the Forest Service's eligibility determination. And then off the front left of the plane, there's like a little meadow down there in the shadow of Sopris. That's Metal Creek, and that's Carbondale's primary source of drinking water. The Crystal is our secondary slash backup source, which is good because Metal Creek is tiny."

That's Leah Linse from EcoFlight, an Aspen based non profit that uses small planes to educate about Colorado's wild places and natural resources. According to, the Crystal River provides drinking water to 7, 000 people and supports a diverse wildlife population. Wild, Scenic, and Recreational designations denote levels of development from least to most. There are several sections of the Crystal. The North and South Fork are the wild segments, pristine and untouched. Then from the confluence to Marble would be the scenic section, and then from there to just above the Sweet Jessup Ditch would be the recreational section that supports things like boat ramps and bike trails. Wild and Scenic designations were a reaction to huge water developments from World War II to the mid 60s. While private developments are still a concern for conservationists, They aren't the biggest issues. The Crystal faces, here's Hattie Johnson from American Whitewater.

"The purpose of it is more to protect against a project the federal government would come in and want to do."

While the Crystal isn't as well suited for export to the front range, another river in the area experiences a huge depletion due to water needs across the Rockies. Johnson says that 50% of the Roaring Fork River goes into Twin Lakes and then into the Arkansas River for front range use. Johnson is part of a larger steering committee dedicated to protecting the river that unanimously agrees that dams and water diversion would be a detriment to the valley. Protections of private property rights are a concern for the scenic designation. While scenic designations do allow for things like roads, property owners are looking for answers about their rights.

"So those are the types of concerns that we are just starting to like, really dive into detail of understanding how, or if, we can address those folks concerns."

Johnson says the committee is dedicated to finding solutions for everyone and preserving the river for generations to come. More information can be found at For KDNK News, high above the Crystal, I'm Lily Jones

Lily Jones is a recent graduate of Mississippi State University, with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and a concentration in Broadcasting and Digital Journalism. At WMSV, MSU's college radio station, Jones served as the Public Affairs and Social Media Coordinator. In her spare time Lily likes to go to the gym and watercolor.