Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout in Water
Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

NPS Photo

See also Fishing at Great Sand Dunes

Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

The creeks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are 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 only occupies about 15% of that range, mostly in the headwaters of the upper Rio Grande watershed. Medano Creek and Sand Creek serve as important biological refugia for this trout, because these are a closed system where exotic species cannot enter; the creeks are bounded by alpine basins at their source, and the desert valley floor at their 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.

Rio Grande Sucker

Colorado Division of Wildlife

Rio Grande Sucker

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 Minnow

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


Last updated: September 13, 2021

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