Taking the Pulse of the Colorado River

At 8:00 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month, naturalists, birders, citizen scientists and river-lovers meet at the Hornsby Bend CER. From there, the group caravans to the set-in and take-out points of a selected portion of the 60-mile stretch of the Colorado River between Austin and Bastrop. For thirteen years this group of regular, occasional and new participants have surveyed the flora, fauna and flow of the river to evaluate and document the health of its ecosystem. Over the years, the group has seen the river change. They have identified and mitigated illegal dump sites, unauthorized draining from and discharging into the river, changes in the cut and deposition banks, and have seen native mussels, beavers and otters return to the river.

On July 6th, thirteen adventurers set out to conduct the 158th survey; they traveled an eight mile stretch of the Colorado River from Austin’s Colony to Little Webberville Park. They counted forty-one bird species and saw wildflowers, turtles, butterflies, damselflies and a coyote. They saw evidence of otter and beaver activity but did not see the critters. Maybe next time!

These surveys are conducted by the Austin – Bastrop River Corridor Partnership (ABRCP). This partnership was founded in 2003, understanding that growth would bring development and the demand for land, materials, housing and roadways would threaten the Colorado River. The ABRCP sought to protect the river and its natural and cultural resources through education, public outreach and collaboration to ensure sustainable development and a healthy riparian zone. The ABRCP was awarded the Community Stewardship Award for Raising Public Awareness by Envision Central Texas for its Vision Report titled “Discovering the Colorado.”  The report tells the tale of the Colorado River’s ecology and its history and describes both its current state and the desired future state. Read the report here.