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Shifting Currents - Part One

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The sun rises over the Yampa River on a July morning near Milner, about 10 miles west of Steamboat Springs. In the background, at right, is Saddle Mountain. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Mike Montagne has devoted 13 years of his career to propagating the razorback. Here, he injects a 14-month-old razorback with a passive transponder that gives it an electronic signature. Within 15 minutes, the fish had been released into the Green River below its confluence with the Yampa in Utah. If it is netted by biology teams, they will scan it to learn its identity and record its movements. Photo by Tom Ross

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Shortly after merging with the Yampa River, the Green River flows into Utah, where it enters one of the driest regions of the United States. The water is on its way to drought-stricken Lake Powell. Communities on the arid Colorado Plateau have initiated conservation measures during the protracted drought. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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John Fetcher, a Harvard-trained engineer, came to the Yampa Valley almost 60 years ago to begin a new life as a rancher. His devotion to ensuring adequate water for ranchers raising beef on mountain hay meadows led him to take a lead role in the creation of four reservoirs on the Yampa River system. Photo by Tom Ross

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Water from Stillwater Reservoir flows down a spillway near Bear Lake, just beneath the Flat Tops, the headwaters of the Bear River. The Bear becomes the Yampa River several miles downstream, near the town of Yampa. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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A flowering prickly pear cactus has attracted a bee to its colorful petals along the Yampa River. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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Amy Tweedy opens a headgate on the upper Fetcher Ranch to flood a pasture with water from Floyd Creek. The ranch is tucked around Steamboat Lake in North Routt County and reaps the benefit of having senior water rights. Photo by Tom Ross

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The headwaters of the Yampa River begin above 12,000 feet in the Flat Tops, a mountain range formed by an uplifted seabed that was covered by lava flows. Photo by Tom Ross

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A kayaker enjoys a little whitewater, fresh from mountain runoff in early June, near downtown Steamboat Springs. The manmade "C-Hole" in Steamboat is a popular spot for kayakers, professional and amateur, to "surf" and practice tricks. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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Rafters float past Echo Park on the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. Steamboat Rock, in the background, is the landmark that signals the confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers. Private rafters must enter a lottery and hope they are chosen for a permit to float this section of the river. Photo by Tom Ross

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Rancher Dean Rossi, shown here shoveling out an irrigation ditch on his hay fields just north of Yampa, has seen changes in the Yampa River coming for some time. One of those changes, he said, is a decreasing number of ranchers in his area who are able to make a living. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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Just west of the small town of Maybell, sheep bend their necks for water and grass in a field irrigated by the Yampa and worked by rancher Neil Chew. The Chew family also owns a ranch in Clark, on the Elk River, and another in Jensen, Utah, on the Green River, just west of the Colorado border. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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GIS specialist Nicolai Bencke, left, climbs a weather tower on Buffalo Pass with biological resource specialist Brian Waugh. The snowpack that settles on the pass each winter is an important indicator of the Yampa's flow each spring and summer. Photo by Tyler Arroyo

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Wayne Kakela is the "ditch rider" for the Soda Creek Ditch in Strawberry Park, a small rural valley just outside Steamboat Springs. Kakela's role is to ensure the many owners of surface water rights to Soda Creek get their fair share. It's a job that is made more complex by the arrival of new property owners who often don't have a background in agriculture. Photo by Tom Ross

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