Regional Offices > Cody Region > Cody Region News > Newton Lakes experiencing rare hydrologic event

Newton Lakes experiencing rare hydrologic event

July 29, 2019
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Good news for East Newton fishery

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If you visited Newton Lakes near Cody this summer, you may have noticed unusually high water levels in West Newton Lake and that for the first time in 35 years, water from West Newton Lake was naturally flowing into East Newton.  

Due to higher than average precipitation the last two years, record levels of precipitation late this spring and other factors, water levels in West Newton Lake recently rose to the point where parking lots, picnic tables and the boat ramp were submerged.  “What’s so significant about this is that water levels were high enough in early June that water from West Newton Lake was naturally flowing into East Newton Lake, an event that has not happened since 1984,” said Fisheries Biologist Jason Burckhardt.

This could be good news for East Newton Lake fishery.  Water flowing naturally from West to East Newton will provide nutrient rich water that may help increase the growth of fish stocked in East Newton.   Although side by side, the two lakes receive water from different sources.  West Newton Lake is supplied with water from the Trail Creek drainage, which is more nutrient rich than the water East Newton normally receives from Buffalo Bill Reservoir through the Heart Mountain canal system. 

East Newton Lake has long had an issue of low water levels, which at times led to fish die-offs.  In 1988, a pump was installed along the Heart Mountain Canal to provide a reliable source of water to East Newton.  Up to 200 acre feet of water has been added to East Newton annually to provide stability to the fishery and has eliminated the fish die-offs.  This is the first year since the East Newton pump was installed that water was not pumped into the lake.

In 1998, Game and Fish pumped water from West Newton to East Newton to draw down water levels in West Newton as part of an effort to remove illegally introduced yellow perch. “The average size of rainbow trout in East Newton Lake peaked after water was pumped from West Newton to East Newton but has declined over the last 15 years,” Burckhardt said. “We’ve adjusted stocking densities to increase the overall average size of trout in East Newton and with the addition of West Newton water we’re expecting larger trout in East Newton in the coming years.”

As water levels began to rise in June, Burckhardt kept a close eye on the channel and infiltration gallery connecting the two bodies of water.  “The infiltration gallery is a gravel barrier in the channel that connects the two bodies of water that allows water to pass, but not fish,” Burckhardt said.  “Water levels were so high in West Newton Lake in mid-June that we had gravel delivered and with the help of Dave Sweet with the East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited, we made the infiltration gallery taller to prevent fish from passing between the two bodies of water.”  The infiltration gallery is intended to prevent goldfish present in West Newton from moving to East Newton and lake chub present in East Newton moving to West Newton.   

East Newton is managed as a trophy trout fishery requiring all fish to be released and the use of artificial flies and lures only.  This water provides anglers an excellent opportunity to catch rainbow, brown, and brook trout from 15 to greater than 22 inches long.  The Eagle Lake rainbow trout in East Newton also serve as a backup brood source of this fish.  Past egg take operations have gathered eggs that are used to stock waters throughout Wyoming.  West Newton Lake is stocked with Yellowstone cutthroat trout and is managed as a family fishery where statewide regulations apply. 
 

    On June 19, parking lots, picnic tables and the boat ramp were submerged at West Newton Lake due to record high water levels. 

         Water levels at East Newton Lake on July 25 reach the bottom of the fishing pier.  

       The infiltration gallery connecting East and West Newton Lakes. 


 

- WGFD -


 
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