The shortest distance between the headwaters above the north rim of Glenwood Canyon and the canyon’s most iconic function, Hanging Lake, is something however a straight line.
Along the best way, a portion of that water takes a detour underground via the canyon’s expansive karst system earlier than making its approach again to the floor.
How a lot of that groundwater results in Hanging Lake, and from the place, versus how a lot flows into the lake straight from the floor are nonetheless inquiries to be answered, water scientist David Woods mentioned.
“It has been theorized that the water in Hanging Lake has been in the ground for very long time, but what we’re seeing is that at least some of it has not been in the ground long before it enters the lake,” mentioned Woods, who’s main a venture to attempt to pinpoint Hanging Lake’s water sources.
Woods and his workforce of researchers from Ozark Underground Laboratories, which focuses on tracing water sources, have launched their preliminary findings within the study that started final fall following the devastating mud and particles flows within the canyon, which resulted from heavy rains over the 2020 Grizzly Creek burn scar.
“The Grizzly Creek Fire highlighted the need for the Forest to better understand the hydrology of the area to help protect the source water for Hanging Lake,” mentioned Leanne Veldhuis, Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger, in a launch saying the source water study progress report.
Researchers started a dye-tracing investigation final fall, establishing 11 dye-tracing stations at Hanging Lake and surrounding areas. Unique tracer dyes had been then positioned in three areas above Hanging Lake — the East and West Forks of Deadhorse Creek, in addition to the adjoining, however bodily separate, French Creek drainage.
This spring, tracer dye launched into the West Fork of Deadhorse Creek was detected in Hanging Lake, despite the fact that there is no such thing as a floor connection between the 2, Woods mentioned.
Because the confluence between the West Fork and East Fork of Deadhorse Creek is under Hanging Lake, that discovering establishes a groundwater connection between West Fork and the springs that provide water to Hanging Lake, he defined.
Surface water does enter Hanging Lake from the East Fork of Deadhorse Creek, the place the close by Bridal Veil Falls is positioned. However, dye launched into that drainage was not detected in Hanging Lake or any of the sampling stations downstream in Deadhorse Creek, Woods mentioned.
That might have been a end result of the time of yr, late in the summertime season, when the preliminary dye analysis was performed, he mentioned.
Interestingly, the study additionally established a groundwater connection from the East Fork of Deadhorse Creek to the neighboring French Creek drainage. That’s solely the end result of groundwater move between the 2 basins, Woods mentioned.
“These preliminary results highlight the complexity of the cave and karst geology of this area, which contributes to Hanging Lake’s special features,” Woods mentioned.
The study is being funded via the National Forest Foundation, and is supposed to assist the Forest Service make use of measures to raised shield Hanging Lake and different components of the canyon throughout future wildfire and particles move occasions, Veldhuis mentioned.
Woods and his workforce plan to return to the realm in early August to increase the analysis websites into further areas that would additionally contribute to the Hanging Lake source water.
Among the issues they hope to find out is the journey time for underground water from the West Fork drainage to Hanging Lake.
The straight-line distance between the West Fork dye introduction web site and Hanging Lake is roughly 5.5 miles, with an approximate elevation change of 2,520 toes, Woods mentioned.
By understanding the journey time for groundwater to achieve the lake, researchers can then get a greater sense of simply how a lot water that comes into Hanging Lake is from underground and the way a lot is from floor move.
That can then assist forest managers know higher methods to take care of wildfire and firefighting ways, in addition to mitigation for flood occasions, so as to shield Hanging Lake.
Placing dye tracers and samples within the water earlier in the summertime must also lead to analysis knowledge this fall earlier than the snow falls and streams freeze, Woods mentioned.
Although the mud flows final summer season didn’t severely influence the lake itself, at the least not within the quick time period, the path resulting in the lake was closely broken.
A brief path offering entry to the lake on a allow foundation was solely simply reopened June 25 after a close to yearlong closure of the realm.
The water source analysis workforce’s progress report will be discovered at http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver.
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