Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout in Water
Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

NPS Photo


Please note: Colorado Parks and Wildlife are removing bag and possession limits July 22 through August 25, 2020 in waters within Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Upper Sand Creek Lake, Lower Sand Creek Lake, Little Sand Creek Lakes, and Sand Creek). Visitors may keep all the fish they can catch with standard fishing gear. In late August, the drainage will be treated to remove all fish. After non-native species are removed, Rio Grande cutthroat trout will be stocked in the drainage in fall 2020.

While Sand Creek currently contains exotic trout species such as rainbow, brook, and brown, Medano Creek is an important habitat for native fish species. The Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis) historically occupied the Rio Grande Basin and associated drainages in southern Colorado and New Mexico. At present, it occupies about 15% of that range, mostly in the headwaters of the upper Rio Grande watershed. Medano Creek serves as an important biological refugia for this trout, because it is a closed system where exotic species cannot enter; the creek is bounded by an alpine basin at its source, and the Great Sand Dunes at its terminus.

Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout are catch and release only; they are on the candidate list for threatened/endangered species at the federal level. The US Fish and Wildlife Service determined in 2009 that while there is sufficient evidence to support federal listing, the listing is currently precluded due to higher priorities. These trout are currently on the Colorado state list as a Species of Special Concern.

Fishing Guide to Great Sand Dunes and Vicinity (.pdf, 211 kb)

Rio Grande Sucker

Colorado Division of Wildlife


The Rio Grande sucker (Catostomus plebeius) is an endangered species in Colorado. These small fish have been reintroduced to forested sections of Medano Creek, and their population is still being monitored.

Fathead Minnow

USGS Photo


Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) live in Big Spring Creek and Indian Spring, west of the main dunefield.


Last updated: August 4, 2020

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11999 State Highway 150

Mosca, CO 81146


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