Help Conserve Rare Native Fishes



Four rare native fishes, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub and razorback sucker are either threatened or endangered and only live in the Colorado River basin.

The Partnerships

How the Programs Work

Water Projects Completed

Total Number of Fish Monitored

About the Upper Colorado River Program

The Rare Native Fishes of the Upper Colorado River Basin

Humpback Chub

Downlisted from endangered to threatened in 2021, humpback chub ( Gila Cypha) is found in swift and turbulant waters in canyons of the Colorado River and some of its tributaries.
All Fish Illustrations (c) Joseph R Tomelleri


Bonytail (Gila elegans) is the rarest of the four fish and is listed as endangered. Bonytail are raised in hatcheries and then stocked in the Colorado river basin. There have been a few encounters with wild-spawned bonytail indicating recruitment.

Colorado pikeminnow

Colorado pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius) is the largest minnow in North America. Historically this fish could reach a length of six feet and weigh eighty pounds. They were a food source for Colorado settlers in the 1800s. During that time, restaurants commonly referred to them as “white salmon” and would ask settlers to sell their catch to them.

Razorback sucker

Razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus) is one of the largest suckers in North America. The razorback sucker can grow to 3 feet in length and can live for more than 40 years. They reproduce at 3 to 4 years of age. Depending on water temperature, spawning can occur as early as November or as late as June. In the Upper Colorado River Basin razorback sucker typically spawn between mid-April and mid-June. Razorback sucker eat insects, plankton, and plant matter on the bottom of the river.

In the News

The Palisade High School Hatchery Project

Volunteer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Stories From the Field

CPW Nonnative Tournaments Push Control Efforts in Right Direction

Biologists for Colorado Parks and Wildlife say two fishing tournaments are showing big rewards when it comes to helping control non-native fish in two important bodies of water. At Elkhead Reservoir east of Craig, anglers competed in the 2020 Elkhead Fishing Classic...

Red Fleet Reservoir Benefits Anglers and Endangered Fish

When Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) discovered someone had illegally put walleye in Red Fleet Reservoir in 2002, Recovery Program stakeholders knew they had problem. Walleye are top predators that consume other fish and can lay thousands of eggs. Walleye...

Endangered Fish Keep Water in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River

About 15 miles of the Colorado River, from the Town of Palisade to the Gunnison River confluence below Las Colonias Park, is particularly vulnerable to very low flows. Large amounts of water are withdrawn from the river above Palisade for agriculture and other Grand Valley uses. In dry times, the resulting low flows can stress rare native fish such as Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. For more than 20 years, cooperative efforts between Grand Valley water users, federal and non-federal water managers, and diverse river interests have successfully provided more water to this 15-Mile Reach when it is most needed, helping to keep the river flowing strong for people and for fish.

Water for Fish

810 cubic-feet per second (CFS*) of water in the main channel of the Colorado River is necessary to support the rare native fishes. When water is lower than that, Recovery Program partners release water into the main stem of the river to benefit wildlife. These releases keep water in the river which is especially important during times of drought.

Water for Communities

Rocky Mountain snowmelt runoff rejuvenates the Colorado River every spring. As runoff enters tributaries, the river fills and provides beneficial habitat for fish, invertebrates, and plants. Along the way, numerous water users have rights to divert natural river flow or temporarily store water in reservoirs for later beneficial use. This stored water is released downstream as needed. Water used by municipalities is diverted from the river into treatment facilities and purified for human consumption. Water used for agriculture is diverted by irrigation districts and individual farmers to meet their agricultural needs.

Water for Agriculture

Water provided by irrigators to farms in the Grand Valley support a $100+ million dollar agricultural industry. Grand Valley farmers supply fruits, vegetables and wine to the state of Colorado and beyond. A thriving agricultural community creates agritourism, which connects tourists to working farms and vineyards. Agritourism provides income to farms and the cities and towns where the farms are located. Agritourism draws travelers to agricultural themed events such as the Palisade Peach Festival, local Farmers Markets, Winefest and many other community events.

Water for Recreation

The Colorado River runs through communities and provides a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. The river supports outdoor recreational activities like kayaking, paddle boarding, tubing, rafting, hiking, wildlife-viewing, picnicking, and biking.



The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program Biology Committee Meeting

July 18, 2023 – 8:00am – 12:00pm –  San Juan River Basin  Recovery Implementation Program Biology Committee Meets. Please send an email to to recieve a Teams invite to participate



San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program Coordination Committee Meeting

August 1, 2023 – 1:00pm – 5:00pm San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program Coordination Committee Meets. Please send an email to to receive a Teams invite to participate.




San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program Biology Committee Meeting

November 28-30, 2023 – 8:00am – 4:00pm San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program Biology Committee Meets. Please send an email to to receive a Teams invite to participate.


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