The Loch and Cathedral Wall, Rocky Mountain National Park


The Loch Vale Watershed is located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Long-term ecological research and monitoring began in 1982 and addresses watershed-scale ecosystem processes, particularly as they respond to atmospheric deposition and climate variability. The project is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Park Service (NPS), and Colorado State University (CSU). Support for data collection is jointly provided by the USGS Western Mountain Initiative (WMI) and Water, Energy, and Biogeochemical Budgets (WEBB) programs. Monitoring of climate, hydrology, precipitation chemistry, and surface water quality allows analysis of long-term trends and distinction between natural and human-caused disturbances. Research efforts are diverse and include ecological response to nitrogen deposition, climate variability and change, microbial activity in sub-alpine and alpine soils, hydrologic flow paths, and the response of aquatic organisms to disturbance. These research activities provide knowledge about the broad range of processes that influence high-elevation ecosystems in the Rocky Mountains. This website provides information about the research program, including access to maps and data.

News and Information

Scientists discover it's "raining plastic" from metro Denver to high in Rocky Mountain National Park. Bruce Finley, The Denver Post - August 16, 2019.

'Report Card' Shows What Coloradans Love, Hate and Want to Change about their State. Joellan Baumann, Colorado Public Radio - July 12, 2018.

Sediment coring at Sky Pond, May 9, 2017. Video courtesy of John Hammond.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017, trip video. High winds, blowing snow. Video courtesy of Bella Oleksy.

In Rocky Mountain National Park’s high lakes, scientists find traces of Colorado’s Gold Rush and the Great Depression. Kevin Beaty, Denverite - January 2017.

Something's in the Water: Monitoring Algal Productivity in Alpine Lakes. Story map for NASA DEVELOP project at Colorado State University - Fall 2016.

Monitoring Algal Productivity to Inform Spatiotemporal Alpine Lake Dynamics in Rocky Mountain National Park. Project video for NASA DEVELOP project at Colorado State University - Fall 2016.

Why Climate Change May Spell Trouble For Rocky Mountain National Park Lakes. Grace Hood, Colorado Public Radio - August 2016.

Long-Term Collaborative Research Helps Rocky Mountain National Park Address Nitrogen-Based Air Pollution. USGS Climate Matters newsletter - Summer 2016.

Meltwater Characteristics of Western Mountain Glaciers and Rock Glaciers. USGS Climate Matters newsletter - Summer 2016.

Nitrogen Pollution Already Changing Rocky Mountain National Park. Jessica McDonald, KUNC Community Radio for Northern Colorado - July 2012.

Dairy Expansion Good for Economy, Bad for Air Quality. Brian Larson and Jeff Nuttall, KUNC Community Radio for Northern Colorado - March 2012.

Response of Lake Chemistry to Atmospheric Deposition and Climate in Selected Class I Wilderness Areas in the Western United State, 1993-2009. Alisa Mast, U.S. Geological Survey - January 2012.

Nitrogen from humans pollutes remote lakes for more than a century. Sandra Hines, University of Washington Today - December 2011.

Agricultural Best Management Practices: Helping to Reduce Nitrogen Impacts at Rocky Mountain National Park - June 2011.

Gasping For Air: Is air pollution pushing the Rockies to a point of no return? Nathan Rice, National Parks Conservation Association - March 2011.