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Colorado Canyon Association and the Catalpa Tree


A lush, broad-leaved Catalpa tree stands out in stark contrast to surrounding desert fauna of the Ruby-Horsethief stretch of the Colorado River. This beloved landmark is the heart of CCA's budding plans to develop an educational river camp. By partnering with a private landowner, CCA will begin to restore and develop land surrounding the Catalpa tree to educate youth and engage volunteers.

To begin, CCA hired the Western Colorado Conservation Corps (WCCC) of Partners to saw nearly two acres of tamarisk and build a trail from the river to future camping areas on the property. Vegetation along the banks is thick brambles of skunkbush. To get initial data for the placement of the trail our surveyors had to belly crawl 50 feet down a beaver trail to reach the river. Working ten hours a day for four days, the WCCC cut through the skunkbush to the river and removed tamarisk stands further inland. The work is tough. Slaps from falling tamarisk, scratches from hauling branches, and breathing constant dust and pollen doesn't slow down WCCC corps members. WCCC corps members are committed to the destruction and “murder” of the invasive tamarisk tree. The removal of tamarisk opened up access to two cottonwood galleries prime for camping

-Ryan McConnell: NCA Stewardship Coordinator-

Ryan's words provide great imagery of the situation we were faced with. The brush was thick and the tamarisk even thicker. This was just what the crew wanted - a challenge! The crew was excited to get out on the river, but they were even more excited to do some saw work and cut some tamarisk. Cutting tamarisk can be difficult, hard work, but the crew welcomed it with smiles.

Four days and a ton of work ahead of us. We started day one by loading the boat and motoring nearly the entire 25 mile stretch of Ruby Horesthief to reach the Catalpa

Tree site near May Flats. After unloading the boats, the crew chapped up and headed to the project site. After a half day of work the crew had burrowed a majority of the way to the river. Cutting a swath of tamarisk and skunk brush that was wide enough for two people to carry a cooler down, they removed all obstacles in their way.

Once the crew reached the river, the work didn't get any easier. To reach some of the tamarisk along the river bank, the crew had to cut holes and crawl through brush and twiggy tunnels to reach the base of the tamarisk. They had to cut in awkward positions all the while looking after one another's safety.

Don't get me wrong, they had fun and enjoyed themselves while working, too. Once we got through the river section, we moved to the dense bunches around cottonwood groves and then moved further out to seek and destroy the tamarisk. Some crew members felled some fairly large trees.

The landscape kept the crew happy and interested. The crew enjoyed their down time and made work fun with feathers and good conversations. It also helped that the the saw work was enjoyable and the crew members could get some great sawing experience.

It was a pleasure having Ryan with us during our time at the CCA site. He provided excellent direction during the project and had a clear plan about what needed to be cut and where the priority areas were. When we weren't working, he was a resource to the crew, providing stories about the area, giving cooking lessons and talking to them about their ambitions. Ryan facilitated some conversations with the crew that I believe were memorable and will stick with the crew for years to come. We are grateful to have had you out on hitch with us, Ryan, and the WCCC looks forward to working with you and the CCA on future projects.

Let's also not forget the wonderful BLM river rangers that help us get to and from the project site. Thanks, Troy Schnurr!

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At the Western Colorado Conservation Corps we work hard to keep you up to date on what  we are doing and how we are enhancing Colorado. Check back often to see new project posts, educational videos, and events. 

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