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Flow returns following early season snow

Did you know that most streams do not always have flowing water?

Streams that do not flow all the time are called intermittent streams. In wet regions, they are the smallest headwater streams, but in dry regions, even large streams can be intermittent.

Historically, most stream monitoring has focused on larger streams that flow continuously, and we have surprisingly little information on intermittent streams. Small streams found on topographic or digital maps are not always present on the ground, and other streams on the ground are missing from maps.

Stream Tracker aims to fill in this information gap by combining a network of citizen scientists, sensors, and satellite imagery to track when and where streams flow.

Research questions

  • Where are streams perennial (flowing continuously), and where are they intermittent (discontinuous flow)?

  • What causes streams to be intermittent?

  • How has streamflow intermittence changed over time?

  • Can better understanding of streamflow intermittence improve stream mapping?


Why is this important?

  • Every large river is fed by smaller streams that only flow after large rain storms or snowmelt. While these streams look dry and lifeless much of the time, they often support diverse aquatic life when they flow. By improving our understanding of these streams, we can help improve streamflow forecasting to predict water supply and flood risk. Better maps of small streams can also aid land use planning, habitat assessments, and wetland delineation.

Program components

  • Community network: engage the community in tracking when and where water is flowing

  • Sensor network: maintain a network of streamflow sensors to track how streams change over time

  • Remote sensing: develop methods for detecting streamflow patterns using aircraft and satellite images

News and Events

Tracking on Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests


Colorado Front Range area

Stream Tracker teams up with Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests. Help us track intermittent streams critical to forest management, especially following the Cameron Peak Fire.

June Stream Track-a-thon

Friday June 2 - Sunday June 18, 2023


Help us capture fall flow conditions with this two-week data collection blitz when flow conditions are higher.

September Stream Track-a-thon

Friday Sept. 15 - Sunday Oct. 1, 2023


Help us capture fall flow conditions with this two-week data collection blitz when flow conditions are lower.

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