Rose Sandell is Eagle River Watershed Council’s education and outreach coordinator. She coordinated the Fourth Annual Eagle River Water Festival, a day of learning dedicated to Eagle County’s 420+ 5th-graders.

The Fourth Annual Eagle River Water Festival, Eagle River Watershed Council’s largest education event for youth, saw 100 more participants this September than in past years. There were 420 student participants, 38 presenters and 23 presenter stations, which included Eagle County Conservation District, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Eagle County Open Space and more.



For most in the Eagle River Valley community, the end of September means a number of things – back-to-school energy, the beginning of leaf-peeping and football season, and the end of baseball. For the staff of Eagle River Watershed Council, it means one thing – the annual Eagle River Water Festival.


Eagle River Water Festival Brings Water to the Classroom


In its third year, the 2022 Eagle River Water Festival has a lot to live up to. When the event started back in 2019, it was part of the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement – a coalition with a focus of breaking down the barriers of outdoor recreation – with the goal to teach our young students about all things water and inspire a curiosity for our rivers.


“The Water Festival is an absolute blast. To see the future of our water stewards connecting with lessons from a wide range of folks is just so inspiring,” said then-education coordinator James Dilzell, who now leads the nonprofit as its executive director. Since then, the event has grown to incorporate 23 presenter stations and 420 student participants. From 2021 to 2022, its participation grew by more than 100 students and five presenter stations.


“The day was a massive success, thanks to the amazing community presenters and the schools who brought such great energy. The day is filled with so many different activities which created a great atmosphere for interactive and hands-on learning,” said Rose Sandell, Eagle River Watershed Council’s education and outreach coordinator.


This year, under the leadership of Sandell, the Third Annual Eagle River Water Festival was bigger and better than ever. With 23 stations, run by presenters from agencies from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and US Forest Service to local businesses and organizations, such as Walking Mountains Science Center, New Roots, Mountain Youth and more, the event included something for fifth-graders of every interest.


Some kids were captivated by macroinvertebrates (water bugs) and enjoyed the station led by Pete Wadden, the Town of Vail’s watershed educator, who instructed his groups to see the critters themselves by “bug kicking,” a process of kicking up bugs into nets from local waters to determine the health of an ecosystem.


Other kids had the chance to learn from retired chemistry professor Dave Foulis, who led a station about the plumbing of the Colorado River, including its inputs and outputs. This activity showed students that the water that runs through their town ends up in California produce, like strawberries, that fills the shelves of grocery stores all over the country


Additional stations included a game of food web tag, a water table that allowed students to learn about the water cycle, and much more. All in all, each fifth-grader visited five stations throughout the day.


Melanie Smith, Eagle River Watershed Council’s development and communications manager, led a station that challenged students to reflect on the role the Eagle River plays in their lives and express it through art. She noticed a vast range in the comfort level kids showed while talking about water and their experiences with it.


“Some kids spoke about picnics they’d had with their families near the river, and some talked about rafting in the summer. Kids in some classes even understood the roles beavers play in some wetland ecosystems, a stark contrast with a few kids that said they’d never spent any time near any local waterways,” Smith said. “It’s important to the current and future protection of the resource our whole community and everyone downstream depends on to provide opportunities to learn about the basics of rivers.”


Eagle River Watershed Council thanks each and every event sponsor and presenter, with a special thank you to Colorado Mountain College for hosting this event.


To stay up to date on opportunities with the Eagle River Watershed Council, please sign up for our enewsletter or visit our events page at

Eagle River Watershed Council is a community-supported 501c(3) organization with the mission to advocate for the health of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at (970) 827-5406 or visit to learn more.



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