At the Eagle River Water Festival on Friday, Dave Foulis teaches students about water use along the Colorado River. The day was filled with presentations from organizations including Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Eagle County Conservation District and Colorado Parks & Wildlife. Photo by Wendy Griffith, Wendy Griffith Photography

On Friday, Eagle River Watershed Council hosted its fourth annual Eagle River Water Festival. Fifth-graders from throughout Eagle County who attend public and private schools or receive homeschool education gathered in Edwards for a day full of all things water.  When the event started back in 2019, it was part of the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement – a coalition that breaks down the barriers of outdoor recreation – with the goal to teach our young students about local rivers and streams and inspire a curiosity for nature.

“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 19 presenter stations and 375 student participants.

“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. 

With 19 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, Vail Valley Anglers, Trout Unlimited 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. 

Eagle River Watershed Council thanks every event sponsor (including Mountain Rec, EVOM, Alpine Bank, Xcel Energy, RA Nelson, Will Comerford’s State Farm office Holy Cross Energy and SGM.