North Laramie Diversion

Roughened channel provides reliable irrigation water

About the Project

Rising in Medicine Bow National Forest in the Laramie Mountains of southeastern Wyoming, the North Laramie River flows near the town of Wheatland in Platte County. The river is not only home to several Wyoming Species of Greatest Conservation Need, including the hornyhead chub and common shiner, but is also an important source of water for local landowners.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has been working to conserve and enhance native species and improve riparian habitat in the North Laramie River by removing two irrigation diversion dams that block fish passage. The North Laramie Canal was a 5-foot-high, 10-foot-wide, 70-foot-long dam constructed of large boulders, logs, railroad ties, and plastic tarp. Constructed more than 80 years ago, it was the largest irrigation diversion on the river. Approximately a quarter mile downstream, the Wilson No. 2 diversion was a 3-foot-high, 20-foot-wide, 105-foot-long irrigation structure made of concrete-encased gabion baskets. Both were removed in December 2022 and replaced with a natural-like roughened channel creating a channel slope passable by all species present in the river.

To date, little fish passage or stream restoration work has been done on the prairie streams in eastern Wyoming. Over the past 10 years, WGFD has collected data on species distribution and populations to inform prioritization of fish passage projects. This project is the first in the region and WGFD intends to showcase the project to local landowners and water users what can be done to reduce maintenance of irrigation diversions while also improving stream function and fish passage conditions.

Owner: Private landowner
Size: North Laramie Canal—5 feet high by 10 feet wide; and Wilson No. 2—3 feet high by 20 feet wide
Project Cost: $707,385
ORF Investment: construction costs
Miles Opened: 10.25 miles
Fish: hornyhead chub and common shiner (Wyoming species of greatest conservation need), brown trout, and rainbow trout
Status: Removed and replaced both diversions in December 2022

  • Open 10 miles of fish passage and access to spawning, rearing, and thermal refugia
  • Improve stream stability and restore natural sediment and debris movement
  • Reduce maintenance required by the irrigators
  • Reduce downstream impacts on irrigation infrastructure and potential damage to private property
  • Improve recreational fishing upstream in the Medicine Bow National Forest by increasing the number of fish present on public lands upstream of dams
  • Build momentum in the region for future fish passage and stream connectivity projects
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Project Partners

Private Landowner

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wyoming Fish and Game Department

Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust

Wyoming Water Development Office

North American Waterfowl Conservation Act