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


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

Dairy Expansion Good for Economy, Bad for Air Quality. By 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. By Alisa Mast, U.S. Geological Survey - January 2012.

Nitrogen from humans pollutes remote lakes for more than a century. By 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? By Nathan Rice, National Parks Conservation Association - March 2011.

Rocky Mountain National Park has a Nitrogen Pollution Problem, but New Energy Plan Could Help. By Marissa Weiss, KUNC Community Radio for Northern Colorado - November 2010.

Too Much of a Good Thing: Increasing Nitrogen Deposition in Lakes. By Marisa Lubeck , U.S. Geological Survey - November 2009.

It’s in the Air: The Ecological Effects of Nitrogen Deposition in Rocky Mountain National Park