Conservation Education: The Blue River Explorer Hike


About a year ago I received an email from Greg Hardy, President of the Gore Range Anglers (Colorado) Chapter of Trout Unlimited, asking if I would be interested in working on a project he had conceived. I had previously designed a logo for the chapter in May 2016, which is how Greg came by my name. This new project Greg had in mind was of considerable scope, not only from the standpoint from which I would be involved, but as a whole. Greg’s vision, to be called the Blue River Explorer Hike, was loosely modeled after the National Park Service Junior Ranger program. Through a series of interpretive signs to be placed along the Blue River Trail in Silverthorne (Colorado), Greg’s goal was to educate visitors—kids, and adults alike—about the Blue River Watershed. It’s a complex watershed that supplies a vast amount of limited water to not only the local area, but the greater Denver area well beyond Silverthorne.

The signs would include graphic-intensive information ranging from What Trout Need and What Trout Eat, to How Watersheds Work, and How We Measure Water, plus more; all pertaining to the Blue River Watershed. As a Trout Unlimited Life Member, it sounded to me like a very worthy project. Of course I was interested.

And so began many months of phone calls and back-and-forth emails. I was sent information in text form (some of it written on restaurant napkins) and tasked with taking that information, paring it down and communicating it in as visually pleasing and simple a manner as possible, because—as we all know—people like looking at pictures more than reading words (says the long-winded author of this blog).






In addition to the signs, I also designed an Activity Booklet that kids (and big kids) will receive for free when they register for the Blue River Explorer Hike at the Silverthorne Welcome Center. The booklet contains word search games, crossword puzzles, coloring pages and other fun stuff suitable for ages 4 and up, so be sure to stop by when you’re in Silverthorne and register for the hike. Note: Be sure to do this during spring, summer or fall, as the signs will likely be buried under (hopefully) several feet of snow during the winter months.

The Blue River Explorer Hike Activity Booklet

The Blue River Explorer Hike Activity Booklet

The entire project, given the scope of it all, went very smoothly. At least it did from my standpoint. As I worked away on the illustrations and sign designs, Greg was busy with adult stuff and orchestrating the entire thing: rounding up sponsors and grant money to cover the cost of production, printing, construction and placement of the signs, etc. This was no small task given the organizations and entities involved.

Greg Hardy cutting the ribbon, flanked by the Mayor of Silverthorne (right) and

Greg Hardy cutting the ribbon, joined by the Mayor and representatives from the Planning Department and Town Council of Silverthorne, as well as members from Copper Mountain Environmental Foundation and the High Country Conservation Center.

The man behind it all, Greg Hardy.

The man behind it all, Greg Hardy.

While I live 1,288.8 miles from Silverthorne and wasn’t able to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony on September 11, 2017, I’m very proud to have been involved in this grass-roots project (and pleased to have Olive the Woolly Bugger participate as a sponsor). I hope that, with the help of Trout Unlimited chapters elsewhere, similar programs will be duplicated on watersheds throughout the country. Every watershed has a great many demands placed upon it, from agriculture and municipal requirements, to recreational usage that includes, among other things, fishing. Anglers certainly are (or should be) aware of conservation issues facing their local waters, but the general public isn’t always as keenly dialed in on such matters. Because water is not an unlimited resource it is imperative that the public learn about the complexities of each watershed so that we may all become conservation-minded stewards as we go about our lives.

Here’s an article commemorating the ribbon cutting ceremony from the Silverthorne city website:

The article also contains a couple of videos, which I’ve extracted here for your viewing pleasure:

Thank you to all the individuals, businesses and organizations involved the successful completion of the Blue River Explorer Hike project. Especially, thanks to Greg Hardy for your passion and vision, and for reaching out and involving me. Just remember, there’s no “t” in Kirk. 😉





  1. The Fading Angler

    Cool! Howard and I were just up there on Friday. Sadly, the weather had become inhospitable and the river was unfishable (opaque) due to a slug of mud from reservoir gates that had been opened.

    Spectacular work, as usual! I’m jealous of you abilities! I’ll definitely lean over to the person next to me when I visit the signs and say, “I know the guy who made this…” 🙂

    • Kirk Werner

      I was out of country so not paying close attention to the social medias, but I did pick up from a few posts that you were in Howard’s neck of the woods—good on ye. I also noticed that Howard appeared to be wearing jeans instead of waders. I think we need to get him some waders 😉 Bummer about the Blue not living up to its name. I’ve never been there but would like to one day make a visit. Thanks for the kind words—I’m real proud of this project. However I doubt the person to whom you lean over will be very impressed. Proceed with caution 😉

  2. The River Damsel

    Yeah, I don’t know what was up with Howard and his jeans… I guess it was a clue that the guy wasn’t going to be fishing long. But, I’m glad that we finally made it out on the water at all. And yes, I will revisit the Blue next spring. It is an amazing river from what I hear. The mud didn’t do us any good last week, but we finished the days with hugs and smiles none the less. That’s what flyfishing bloggers do! =)

    • Kirk Werner

      Glad to hear you got out and fished with some good folks. Maybe we need to take up a collection and get Howard some waders. If he’s opposed to that, maybe some wading pants, so they’re more like jeans 😉

  3. Howard Levett

    Well, somehow I managed to miss all the hubbub about not wearing waders. If you wear waders, you are tempting fate, which for me is when I die my wife rolls me into the Blue River.

    Well done to all the many folks and Kurt Werner for the wonderful work on the Blue. The Blue happens to be one of my favorites and one of the best fisheries in the state. Kurt, if you come visit, I’l put my own waders on…thank you!

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