Eleven Mile Canyon Update

I just wanted to provide a quick update on the activity at Eleven Mile Canyon. I was startled to hear a report from Sally that major construction was underway near the eagle habitat, so I went up to the canyon yesterday to look into it.

First… the Birds

Great blue heron at Eleven Mile Canyon Colorado

There was no one at the gate when I arrived so I decided to drive on up the canyon to capture some wildlife images. As luck would have it, I encountered a heron wading in the river just as I approached the first cliffs. I was far enough away and high above the river, so the beautiful bird paid no attention to me and continued wading in the shallow rapids.

There wasn’t much light yet, but i was able to steady my camera on the hood of my truck and get a couple nice captures with a reasonably low ISO. The river in the background looked spectacular and these were my best of the day!

Next Up, an Osprey

Past the twin tunnels I spotted an osprey on the opposite bank. He was perched on a branch busily eating a fish he had caught earlier. Unfortunately he had chosen probably the ugliest tree in the canyon to pose in, so my stills weren’t very attractive. In fact there were so many branches my camera could barely pick him out as a subject to focus on. However, I did get a nice video clip of him having breakfast.

I believe this to be a juvenile osprey, meaning that we have had another successful breeding season from our returning nesting pair! They lost their nest a couple of years ago, but thankfully have managed to rebuild, although I have been unable to locate their new nest.

Osprey eating a fish

The Construction

I was able to talk to the gate attendant at the end of my first trip up the canyon. She told me that the project involved the removal of the old defunct dam at the canyon entrance. After reading this article and talking to Sally who conversed with a wildlife biologist who was on scene, I believe I have pieced together a timeline for the project.

Juvenile bald eagles at the nest in Eleven MIle Canyon Colorado

First of all I know many of you are concerned for the eagles so I will provide what I know about their behavior after having watched them for several years. The youngsters have fledged, and usually right about this time of the season the parents have departed for their summer location at the big lakes and will not return until just before the winter breeding season to work on their nest in preparation for the next hatch.

It’s less clear what the young ones do, they hang around a while building strength and skill before eventually joining the migration to eventually search for a mate. It takes them about three years to fully mature and begin a family of their own.

Right now they no longer need the nest, although they continue to use it as a gathering place for themselves and their siblings. Hopefully they will have departed by the time the heavy destruction of the concrete dam begins. It is likely the parents won’t return until winter and will have no knowledge of the construction that has taken place.

The Dam Project

As far as the construction, first of all the silt behind the dam will be dredged out to create a clean channel. Then the dam will be destroyed and removed to create a natural flow for the river. The river channel will then be restored to a more natural state. The lower basin just below the dam will likely be closed for the eagle breeding season and reopened next summer as part of the canyon fee area.

I will keep you all apprised as I learn more about the project! In the meantime, visitors will be able to continue to enjoy the canyon as always.

A Few More Images

In addition to the above images, I saw the fledglings near the nest before they soared high into the sky, circling the lake together as eagles often do. I was also able to grab a couple of stills of the osprey and heron before the canyon was invaded by hoards of fishermen. Hope you enjoy!

Deia Eternally Free

Also, check out my latest book Spirit of the Wolf, a compelling novel about a Bay Area photographer and his love interest and fashion model as they develop their careers. From triumph to terrifying adventures, these two will keep you on the edge of your recliner for sure!

Steven W. Krull

Photographer and author Steve Krull has been photographing and writing about the of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and it’s amazing diversity of life for over two decades. He has published thousands of images and several books including his latest novel Spirit of the Wolf.

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