Definition of a Riparian Area
By definition, riparian areas are the green, vegetated places on either side of streams and rivers. These areas serve many important functions, including:
- Purifying water by removing sediments and other contaminants
- Reducing the risk of flooding and associated damage
- Reducing stream channel and stream bank erosion
- Increasing available water and stream flow duration by holding water in stream banks and aquifers
- Supporting a diversity of plant and wildlife species
- Maintaining a habitat for healthy fish populations
- Providing water, forage, and shade for wildlife and livestock
- Creating opportunities for recreationists to fish, camp, picnic, and enjoy other activities
Through the years, the Upper Wind River stream banks and overflow channels gradually lost the natural diversified riparian vegetation. Channel alterations, such as cutting through meanders, facilitated further deterioration of the channel area over time. Improper irrigation waste water return and poor irrigation water management in the channel vicinity further eroded the streams.
Seasonal high water, resulting from melting snow pack and snow, flushes the various watershed channels with high volumes and velocities of water. Tremendous amounts of sediment are washed from raw banks and channels into the streams that make up the watershed which in turn, dumps sediment into the Upper Wind River and eventually into Boysen Reservoir.