by Ryen Neudecker, BBCTU Restoration Coordinator
Our efforts to restore Nevada Creek, the largest tributary to the middle Blackfoot River began almost ten years ago. During that time, the restoration team in the Blackfoot valley, led by Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited, has been able to improve habitat and stop literally acres of ground from washing downstream on over six miles of this stream. We’ve planted over 100,000 willows and buried thousands of pieces of wood within the stream banks to ease the energy that can only be found within a river current. The designs that recreate a stream channel suffering from confinement and unnatural patterns were meticulously drafted by hydrologists using metrics from stream reaches that function well and then put in motion by contractors who artfully rebuild the stream driving large yellow excavators that are surprisingly nimble. It’s pretty amazing when you think that these talented companies are located right here in Montana—some even in the Blackfoot valley.
Thanks in part to the continued support of the generous WestSlope Chapter of Trout Unlimited board members and donors, this past summer we began the fourth phase of Nevada Creek where just over 7,000 feet of habitat was restored. Stream banks that were sloughing hundreds of tons of dirt into Nevada Creek every year were shaped and sloped and treated with wood and willows. The stream bed that had been covered with fine silts and mud was brought back to life with native gravels and cobbles. The private landowners that we had the privilege of working with will continue to raise hay to feed their cows and hopefully sleep better knowing that the stream flowing through their ranch is no longer chewing into their hay meadows as the stream and the floodplain are now in balance.
A lot of work, time and funding go into these projects, but all the upfront energy will yield a project that will be self-sustaining and left alone to be a river. And what does this mean for the trout swimming in Nevada Creek? Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks sampling data has shown the density of age one and older trout have increased from 243 trout/mile to an average of 567 trout/mile which is a remarkable improvement, especially when you consider that back in 1990 over five miles of Nevada Creek was sampled and only one trout was found.
There is much work left to be done on Nevada Creek! Join us as we work towards bringing this tributary fully back online, providing a strong source of the next generation of trout to the middle Blackfoot River.