Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Low-flow water-quality characterization of the Gore Creek watershed, upper Colorado River basin, Colorado, August 1996

April 1, 1998

The Upper Colorado River Basin (UCOL) is one of 59 National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) study units designed to assess the status and trends of the Nation?s water quality (Leahy and others, 1990). The UCOL study unit began operation in 1994, and surface-water-quality data collection at a network of 14 sites began in October 1995 (Apodaca and others, 1996; Spahr and others, 1996). Gore Creek, which flows through Vail, Colorado, originates in pristine alpine headwaters and is designated a gold-medal trout fishery. The creek drains an area of about 102 square miles and is a tributary to the Eagle River. Gore Creek at the mouth near Minturn (site 13 in fig. 1) is one of the 14 sites in the UCOL network. This site was selected to evaluate water quality resulting from urban development and recreational land use. The Gore Creek watershed has undergone rapid land-use changes since the 1960?s as the Vail area shifted from traditional mountain ranchlands to a four-season resort community. Residential, recreational, commercial, and transportation development continues near Gore Creek and its tributaries to support the increasing permanent and tourist population of the area. Interstate 70 runs through the watershed from Vail Pass near site 14, along the eastern side of Black Gore Creek, and along the northern side of the main stem of Gore Creek to the mouth of the watershed (fig. 1). A major local concern is how increasing urbanization/recreation affects the water quality, gold-medal trout fishery, and aesthetic values of Gore Creek. An evaluation of the spatial characteristics of water quality in the watershed upstream from site 13 at the mouth of Gore Creek (fig. 1) can provide local water and land managers with information necessary to establish water policy and make land-use planning decisions to maintain or improve water quality. Historical data collected at the mouth of Gore Creek provide information about water quality resulting from land use, but a synoptic sampling is needed to determine the distribution and sources of water-quality constituents at one point in time. In August 1996, a low-flow synoptic sampling for analyses of water-quality properties and constituents at sites in the Gore Creek watershed was done by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Town of Vail, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, Upper Eagle River Water Authority, and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, to evaluate the water quality of Gore Creek. The August low-flow period can be important from water-quality and stream ecology perspectives. There is less water available to dilute any contaminants entering the streams, and stream temperatures are highest during August. Physical habitat for aquatic plants and animals is smaller than during most other times of the year. To address these more extreme water-quality and ecological conditions, the synoptic sampling was conducted during the summer low-flow period. Specific objectives of this sampling included: 1. Establish a current data set representing the spatial characteristics of low-flow water-quality conditions in the Gore Creek watershed, and 2. Develop some understanding of land-use and water-quality relations in the watershed. This fact sheet presents hydrologic background information and an analysis of general water-quality properties and constituents, trace elements, and nutrients collected in water samples during low-flow synoptic sampling of the Gore Creek watershed. The U.S. Geological Survey also is conducting a study of the algae and macroinvertebrate communities and physical habitat of streams in the Gore Creek watershed during low flow. This study is designed to provide information about land-use and stream ecology relations in the watershed.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title Low-flow water-quality characterization of the Gore Creek watershed, upper Colorado River basin, Colorado, August 1996
DOI 10.3133/fs16097
Authors Kirby H. Wynn, Norman E. Spahr
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 160-97
Index ID fs16097
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization