Wild Natural Area & Neighbors

Project Description

Wild Natural Area or Reach 28 is a depositional stretch of river located east of the Big Thompson Canyon and west of the City of Loveland. This 5,000 foot long segment of the Big Thompson suffered extensive damage from the 2013 Big Thompson River floods. The flood caused approximately ten feet of sediment to deposit in the historical channel, forcing the flooding water to break a new channel through private lands. This new breach tore through the majority of mature riparian vegetation, leaving the channel banks destabilized, prone to erosion, and the habitat degraded. Pre-construction, this section of the river consisted of a uniform, shallow, overly-widened river that provided minimal habitat diversity and wildlife benefit. Emergency repairs were conducted following the 2013 flood, however property owners and other partners needed long term solutions to enhance the resilience of this section of river. In 2017, BTWC received grant funds to create the final design, obtain project permits, and hire design-build contractors. Construction broke ground in early 2019 and the project was finalized the same year.

The Wild Natural Area project was made possible by the interest and commitment of property owners at Sweetheart Winery, private landowners, and the City of Loveland who plans to open a public area to be called Wild Natural Area.

Fun Fact

You can view the Wild Natural Area project up close while enjoying a glass of wine and a charcuterie board by visiting Sweetheart Winery !

Project Photos

Before (2012)

The pre-2013 flood river corridor (highlighted green) provided diverse habitat types for aquatic wildlife, a gently curving river to slow water flow, and a lovely gallery of mature cottonwoods.

After (2014)

During the flood, approximately 10 feet of sediment was deposited in the original channel, forcing the water to forge a new path. This process uprooted mature vegetation that stabilized the river banks, eroded an overly wide and shallow channel, and reduced wildlife benefits of the area.

Reach 28 Today

Reach 28 Today

Willows and other riparian vegetation have established along the banks and bank erosion has been reduced through stabilization efforts.
Reach 28 Today

Reach 28 Today

The river is more connected to its floodplain and has natural rock and wood features in the channel that help create and maintain bedford diversity and natural habitat for aquatic wildlife.
Wild Natural Area & Neighbors

Project Accomplishments


Establish a riparian habitat corridor

Enhance floodplain connectivity

Create bed form diversity

Build flood resiliency

Re-establish appropriate river dimension, pattern, profile and flows

Reclaim  natural plant communities and lands damaged by flooding

Provide habitat availability for aquatic wildlife communities (mainly fish)

Our Project Partners