Several sections of Gunnison Basin rivers and streams have received special classifications that recognize their particular value for the environment and recreation.
- Gold Medal Waters are designated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as having the highest quality cold-water habitats and capability of producing trout in excess of 14 inches long. In the Gunnison Basin, the section of the Gunnison River between the Crystal Reservoir Dam and the confluence with the Smith Fork has received this designation. This section flows through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which has information on fishing here.
- The lower Gunnison River has been designated critical habitat for four species of endangered fish. You can find information on managing flow levels to benefit the fish in this document from the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.
- The Gunnison Basin Roundtable conducted a “nonconsumptive needs assessment” in 2010, the results of which are depicted on this map. Here are a few highlights:
- The Lake Fork and the Upper Gunnison and Taylor Rivers, as well as numerous lakes on Grand Mesa, are noted as particularly important for recreation.
- The mainstem of the Gunnison River from Blue Mesa Reservoir to the confluence with the North Fork are notes as being important for both recreation and the environment.
- Many headwater streams and lower Gunnison Basin tributaries flowing off the Uncompahgre Plateau are noted as environmentally important.