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 Stream Tender Magazine

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             Introduction:

Where the impacts of human activity have either directly or indirectly effected the natural state of fish bearing streams, mitigation or remedial measures may be required to compensate for those negative impacts. Methodology designed to repair or enhance both riparian and fish habitat has been used to facilitate the recovery of many streams in recent years. The technology used is still being developed, especially in the area of bio-engineering plants for the enhancement of riparian zones. It is of major importance that any in-stream structures emulate the appearance of a natural stream habitat. This is achieved by the use of natural materials such as boulders, timber and living plants. The used of these materials adds a special challenge to the engineering and construction of structures that will stand up to the influences of high flow events, winter ice and frost conditions. Also important, is the necessity of having all of the necessary permits and permissions from government agencies that are responsible for managing our flowing water ways. In some cases this can be a lengthy process, but it is required by law and common sense. Riparian and fish habitat enhancement programs are not only beneficial to maintaining our streams, but they also arouse interest from the general public and help educate people of all ages about the importance of our flowing waters and how we all can protect them!

 

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Fall Reflections

Fall is a great time for me and also a good time to reflect on the past season. Our riparian planting program ” Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” was a fantastic one this year. We planted another 11,200 native plants along the banks of the three streams in the program: Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek. After a spectacular growning season, the survival rates are up on our native willow and tree crop.

It was good year, but there is still plenty of work to be done and more riparian zone created, in the next few years. What I really enjoyed again this year, was the opportunity to inspect our plantings from previous years. Right back until the time the BVRR&E program was first initiated, in 2014. All of the new trout habitat that we are creating is especially exciting to see. Willows are now reaching down, out and above the water, providing nice shady pockets of cover for resident stream trout.

Now, as the years progress, we can watch the willows and tree mature and further enhance the riparian zone and the trout populations. We really need to change the way we look at our local trout streams that are so close to and in major centres like Cochrane and Calgary. The smart thing to do is to change the regulations for sport angling, so that the trout in flowing rivers and streams is totally catch and release only. You cannot manage a trout fishery when you allow the killing of wild trout.

Natural predators like mink, herons, merganzers, osprey and the list goes on, all need to eat and this is the only stream habitat that they have. Humans should not be the cause of stream ecosystems loosing any keystone species like wild trout! We have to learn to live in a symbiotic relationship with all of the life in our nearby riparian zones, and the life beneath the surface of the water in those river and streams.

First Snows Always Get Me Fly Tying

The first snows of the fall always get me motivated to start my fly tying. The last days of September and early October isn’t exactly what I am use to for what is considered fly tying season, but it did happen early this year. As the heavy snow fell and the warm comforts of home triggered me to tie the first fly patterns of my normal winter fly tying program.

If I haven’t been tying for a while, I like to start with something simple, like a nymph pattern. Start slow and the speed will come with time. That is what makes a good fly tier. This fall a mayfly pattern came to mind, so that is exactly what my focus was on.

A simple Mayfly nymph, tied on a size 12 – 2X nymph hook

 

My first fly was not exactly a text book tie, but after a while, I got into the rythmn. The big thing to remember is to have all of the right materials on hand.

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Fall 2019 Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

This morning there is a light covering of snow on the ground, with predicitons of more to come. As we leave September in a cold snap, the good news is that the flow levels in the area streams is good and this will help migrating brook trout and brown trout reach their spawning habitats. The higher flows help the trout move upstream, past any obstructions. Evan Martens contacted me in the third week of this month, informing me that the brook trout had already started to spawn on the Bighill Creek. It is happening early this fall, so we may be in for a long one (winter).


Above: The Bighill Creek is flowing good this fall, thanks to plenty of rain this summer. With more rain and snow this fall, we will have good flows this next spring and summer. The water table is fully charged or close to it.

I am really impressed by how much the Bighill Creek has cleared up over the last 10 years or so. A healthy riparian zone is a large factor in why the creek is looking so good these days. The rancher, just upstream of the Town of Cochrane has always taken very good care of the land and had a mutual respect for the Bighill Creek. All of this helps, when a stream is in recovery mode. The thousands of native willows and trees that have been planted on the lower end of the creek have also made a big difference.

New Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

I have just uploaded the fall 2019 issue of “Stream Tender Magazine”, so you can access it at http://magazine.streamtender.com . Please check it out. There are a few big surprizes about Nose Creek pike and brown trout fishing. You will have to see this!

Aquatic Weeds For Lakes and Ponds

I have just uploaded a new article on propagation of aquatic weeds for a new lake. The idea behind this approach is to enrich a newly constucted lake with the planting of aquatic weed cuttings. This weed habitat will boost the invertebrate populations in a lake or pond and enhance the amount of food for stocked trout.

Check it out at this link: Growing Aquatic Plants.

 

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Fall Season Update – 2019

As the cooler mornings bring the first tell tale signs of a fast approaching fall, the change into the autum color of leaves is coming soon. It is a time that some of us look forward to, as a favorite time of the year. Fall is a great time of the year to get out and enjoy the last of the warmer days, before the snow flies and time spent outdoors may be limited. Fall is also a great time to fish local trout streams, to get enough fly fishing in to last until mid-winter thought turn to spring.

This past week, I saw the first “Great Late Summer Sedge” or “October Caddis”, while walking along a local trout stream. This caddis or sedge is a member of the large fall sedge hatches that happen on both lakes and streams. The “Dicosmoecus” and “Onocosmoecus” sedges both hatch in the fall. The Dicosmoecus is the stream version and the Onocosmoecus is found in local lakes. These large caddis flies are both members of the Limnephilidae family.

The orange color of this caddis makes it easily identifiable, especially on its abdomen. They are also large in size and the trout love to eat them, mostly when they are in the pupal stage, darting about under the water. The hatch will linger into the month of October, on the Bow River.

As soon as the October Caddis shows up in late August, my thoughts are usually turned to fall fly fishing, mostly on the local Bow River in the town of Cochrane. I can walk to the river or drive further upstream or downstream to fly fish. The fly fishing doesn’t compare to the lower Bow River, but the crowds are not a worry out west of the city of Calgary.

In the fall, you can cast a dry fly to the end of September or fish other wet flies deep or shallow. The fall is a great time to fly fish! I love the fall colors that enhance the river valley in the fall. Ocassionally, you will see an Osprey flying over the river, looking for unsuspecting trout that might be holding in the shallower areas of the river.

Lush Growth Into September

Here it is, on the verge of September, and probably the greenist start to the fall that I have witnessed in a number of years. All of that rain that we had this summer has clear benefits to the natural landscape around these parts. The 11,200 native plants from our riparian planting program had a great chance for their first season of growth this year, growing well into and past what would normally be the end of the growing season. The new plants won’t be noticable until they have grown a few years, but it is nice to know that they will. A large crop of new plants will definitely make a real difference for the riparian zone on a few local creeks, over time.

This year, it was nice to see how our past plantings from the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” have really started to make a difference in the amount of in-stream fish habitat that there is. Our plants are now restructuring the in-channel flow dynamics and adding cover where there never was any. Willows growing along the water’s edge are now providing shade and overhead cover for trout, along with a new beauty to the stream channel.

In the photo above: All of the native willows that you see in this photo were planted years ago, and they are now starting to play an important role in improving the quality of a natural, native riparian habitat, along the stream’s flowing channel. As a fly fisher, this scene typlifies a perfect spot for a trout to hangout in. The trout would be holding in the deeper water, in the shade, where the flowing surface water hugs close to the right side of the stream bank. This is where I would float my dry fly on a drift.

Soon, Bow Valley Habitat Development will be starting to organize the 2020 riparian planting season plans. The goal for next year will be to meet our typical 10,000 plant objective for the three local streams in the program. Those streams are the Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek. I look forward to another great year of planting next season!

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More Brown Trout Than You Can Shake a Stick At – Or A Fly Rod

I ran into a young fisherman a few days ago. His name is Evan Martens and he loves to fish. Evan and I exchange emails from time to time and for me it is a good way of finding out how the fishing is in this area. Evan likes to fish small streams and big water like the Bow River, so he is a perfect source of information, when I am trying to write about the state of the local sport fishery.

For me personally, it is very refreshing to find a young angler with the same urge to fish that I once had. Furthermore, he does a lot of fishing and knows the local haunts of large trout very well. As he scolled down the photo lists of recent catches, on his cell phone, I could see that there were more photos of huge brown trout than you could shake a stick at. So he definitely knows how to catch large trout. I asked him if I could use a few of his photos in my websites and he agreed to send me some.

The Evan Martens photo above; shows one of the nicely colored brown trout that Evan has caught and released lately. Note the brilliant red color spots on this beauty. The exact location of this particular catch is unknown, but that is just normal fisherman non-disclosure practices. Bottomline; it is nice to know that there are some real beauties still lurking about. It is also comforting to know that young anglers practise catch and release these days, especially considering there are no good regulations in place to protect this magnificant wild trout population, on some smaller area streams.

I will continue to check in with Evan Martin and other local anglers to see how their personal fishing experience is, so that I can relay this info to my readers. Fisheries managers are also welcome to the information relating to our local fishery, as well.

My personal experience seems to be more related to smaller varieties of trout, when it comes to fishing this reach of the Bow River. But the good news is; there are plenty of small brown trout and growing numbers of small rainbow trout in our length of the river, so this holds promise for the future angling opportunities. We will see what happens next year. I suspect that the overall population of trout in the Bow River will be up in 2020!

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – August 2019 Update

I had a meeting and tour of some of our planting sites in Calgary, on West Nose Creek, yesterday. Calgary Parks ecologist Andrew Phelps joined me to inspect some plantings from the past and also this springs crop. Everything looks good for this year’s planting results, with lots of surviving plants and they are growing fast. It has been a fantastic year for growth on all of our local streams that we plant on.

 

The plan for 2020 was discussed and we are good to go for next year, on West Nose Creek. By fall, BVHD will have all of the organizing complete for this next year’s planting program. We are at 71,914 plants planted thus far, so next year I am hoping we can break the 80 thousand plant mark. What ever we manage to get into the ground in 2020 will all be good for this riparian restoration program.

I am especially pleased with how much volume of flow we are experiencing on all of the small streams in our planting program. It is really good to see how the water table is recharged and providing good water levels in local creeks. This fall’s brown trout and brook trout spawning season may be a banner year for these wild trout populations.

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Signs of Recovery for Middle-Bow River Trout

Just recently, I caught my first juvenile rainbow trout on the middle Bow River, in Cochrane. The number of captured juvenile brown trout is increasing , as the water levels drop, over the past few days. During my fly fishing survey on the Bow River this summer, at first it looked pretty gloomy, but now things are starting to pick up and the fishery doesn’t look as bad as I first thought. The big news is that there was a successful hatch of rainbow trout eggs last year, on the Jumpingpound Creek. The brown trout hatch on Bighill Creek was also successful. The reason I can tell you this is that both the brown trout and rainbow trout fingerlings are about the same size.

The trout above is the rainbow trout that I recently caught recently, on the Bow River in Cochrane. It is one of a few that I hooked this past week. The small trout came out of the Jumpingpound Creek, after spending its first year in the creek. Good water levels in the JP this year, cause a delay in the normal migration patterns of the trout. They usually come down out of the JP Creek in the first part of July. However, it was nice just to see that there was a successful hatch last year.


This brown trout was one of many caught in the Bow River, but the trout was most likely hatched on the Bighill Creek last year, from the 2017 fall spawning season. All of the trout seem to be in pretty good condition, which is very important for their winter survival this year. This is good news for the local fly fishers in our area, without small trout being injected into the river every year,  your trout population would collapse.

These days, when I catch a small rainbow trout on the river, I will pause to wonder if the trout in my hand is carrying the disease resistant genome for whirling disease. After following the topic of whirling disease quite closely over the past few years, I am confident that a disease resistance is the only hope for our Jumpingpound Creek strain of rainbow trout, and those strains further downstream.

Stonefly Recovery Happening

This year there is a definite increase in the number of stoneflies present in this reach of the Bow River. The stonefly has been pretty scarse in recent years and this may have something to do with the big flood of 2013. because the Ghost Reservoir is on the upstream side of this reach of the Bow River, the recruitment of stoneflies on the river would take a little longer than on a normal stream, with no dams.

A few days ago, while fly fishing the Bow River just a few blocks away from my house, I notice lots of summer stoneflies along the water’s edge. The stoneflies were Acroneuria sp., which are a late summer perlidae hatch that happens on the Bow River. This is why I call it the summer stonefly. The stonefly population is of primary importance for all of our wild trout, in this reach of the Bow River. Later on in the open water season, the fluctuating water levels in the river have a huge negative impact on other invertebrate hatches. The stoneflies are able to migrate into deeper water during these water level changes, but other insects can’t.

With healthy stonefly populations, the trout should benefit from this food source and increase in numbers. It is a wait and see theory, but any sign of hope is good enough to keep my interest high, during the wild trout’s journey to recovery. I do recall a time when insect hatches along this reach of the Bow River were a lot more prolific. Nowadays, you just don’t see the midge and mayfly hatches of yesteryear.

A few years ago, the water levels in the Ghost Reservoir were brought up to maximum levels after the run-off season was over, now they keep the Ghost reservoir levels down well into the summer. This must have made an impact on the tailwater fishery that we had. However, this is only speculation at this point in time.

 More Habitat Growing Along the Creeks

This is the 6th year of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” and the results are getting more obvious these days! New native willows and trees are starting to provide great instream habitat and stream bank stability. A sign that our efforts have not been in vain. Willows are growing on both sides of the stream channel now and it will only get better as the years progress on!

Above: This photo of Bighill Creek shows how a good planting program can enhance the wild trout habitat and improve stream bank stability. Note the planting on the farside of the stream bank was carried out on an eroding slope, five years earlier. Now the erosion site is stable and covered with native willows. Some stream banks are more difficult to plant on, but persistance pays off, over time.

New Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

I have just uploaded the summer 2019 issue of “Stream Tender Magazine” at: http://magazine.streamtender.com . Please check it out.

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Local Trout Streams – Still Flowing High

Lush Green Growth  –  Lots Of Water

The local small creeks are still flowing very high for this time of the season! The water table and ground springs are in great shape with lots of water from all of the rain that we have received this spring and summer. The flood of June 21st and a few high flow events since that time have already cleaned the stream beds and scoured the pools, so when the water levels drop a bit and the flow clears up enough, you will see the difference that a few good flushes can do for a trout stream.

It has been a few years since the last good flush on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and other area streams. The added willow growth from our “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” will help constrict the flow and scour a deep narrow channel, with cobble and gravel exposed in some areas.

This will be great for any new resident trout, migrating in from the Bow River, or those new trout that have hatched on Bighill Creek early this year. A cleaner creek means more invertebrates or food and some pretty good new habitat for trout to live in. Deeper pools, undercuts and runs, will all be enhanced by the flood waters that tore thru the creek a few times in June and July.

You can see from the photo to the left that some of our first willow plantings are now growing out and over the stream channel. This added new fish habitat will more than double the holding capasity of Bighill Creek’s resident trout population. Some may start out small, but over time they will grow into larger trout and improve the health of the sport fishery and boost the amount of wildlife that depend on trout for survival. Herons, mink, diving/fish eating/ waterfowl and other wildlife will have a more productive habitat for foraging.

I have fished the Bow River here in Cochrane a few times this year already, and the number of juvenile brown trout is up again this year. I suspect that many of these small brown trout will be returning to the Bighill Creek later on this season. This should help boost the population of brown trout in the creek. Also, we did have a successful hatch of Millennium Creek brook trout again this year. This along with new hatchlings from further upstream, should enhance the brook trout population in the stream as well.

This is the largest brown trout that I have captured in the Bow River so far this year, but a lot of smaller brown trout were present in the river. These are all very nice and healthy juvenille brown trout and the numbers of them that move into the creek will definitely boost the fisheries trout restoration program in Bighill Creek. There will be plenty of new habitat ready for the small brown trout, when they migrate up the Bighill Creek.

Every year, I conduct an angling survey to see how the rainbow trout hatch in the previous year was, on the Jumpingpound Creek. Using a fly rod and a variety of very small trout flies, I can usually catch the smaller trout that are present in the Bow River, in the Town of Cochrane. Unfortunately, this season, as of July 23rd, there were no rainbow trout captured by this angling method. However, it may happen yet, so I will continue with my survey.

The numbers of rainbow trout in this reach of the Bow River has been dramatically reduced in recent years. Collapsed fishery, is a better discription for the state of the rainbow trout fishery on the middle Bow River. It is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this, because I don’t spend all of my own time studying the river’s fishery, but I suspect a number of variables are involved in this terrible state of our rainbow trout populations. I have heard that the Bow River in Calgary and downstream is also experiencing a reduced rainbow trout population, but the river is still maintaining a good sport fishery for now.

All we can do on our end, is improve the fish habitat on small tributaries to the Bow River and increase spawning habitat, in the hopes that our sport fishery will rebound some day. There just seems to be so much happening these days, with envasive species entering the river system and human development encroaching on key areas that our trout depend on for reproduction. A good example is Ranch House Spring Creek. This small spring creek is used by brook trout as a nursery habitat and also, more importantly, as a spawning habitat. A few years ago, a storm drain outflow was constructed on the Ranch House Creek drainage. Since that time, huge volumes of ground water run-off have been entering the small spring creek and quickly eroding the natural existing stream channel into a washout.

The numbers of spawning trout have dwindeled, from a high of 32 brook trout redds in 2016, down to 3 last fall. I am positive that the changing stream channel geometry and substrate is the cause for the decline in reproductive numbers. The pumping of spring groundwater further upstream is also a major concern these days. We cannot afford to loose any spring water from such an important spawning tributary as Ranch House Creek.

 

 

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Speedy Recovery For Bighill Creek – After The Flood!

Previously Planted Willows Hold Stream Banks Together

The recent flood on Bighill Creek and other surrounding trout streams was from a lot of rainfall falling in just one day. The high water levels flowed fast and furious for a breif time that was a powerfull natural event for such small streams. The recover will be quick this year!                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The photo above shows how a large clump of streambank was prevented from rolling into the stream channel, by a thick clump of willows that we had planted on this site. This eroding stream bank is stabilizing over time, since the first willow plants were completed on this site.

The photo above shows how willow plants that were planted to stabilize an eroding stream bank, have survived the flood and the dense root systems were successful in preventing further stream bank erosion, at this particular site.

This eroding stream bank, like many others that have been planted, is now considered stabilized. The future growth on these sites will further enhance both fish and wildlife habitat, but also improve the water quality in the stream. It will take a few more years on many sites, for the new native willows and trees to establish root systems to help hold the soil stable, along the water’s edge in the stream.

It has been over a week since the flash flood on BH Creek and the water is still flowing high. More rain has been the reason for this. As the water starts to receed and clear up, it will be interesting to see the newly scoured streambed, with plenty of clean substrate and deep pool and cover habitat for trout.

The flood waters bent over the larger planted willows in a downstream direction. It will be interesting to see how many of these willows stay permenantly adjusted by the flood, over time.

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Big Flood For Bighill Creek!

Flash Flood Hits The BH Creek and Other Area Streams

I was awaken by the thurderous sound of rain reverberating on my roof, many times during the night. In the morning, I saw the water in the rain pail on my deck and estimated it to contain approximately 4 inches and it was still pouring down outside. Even after I finished my morning coffee and was ready to walk down into the valley to check the Bighill Creek out.

Layering up with two sets of rain coats and one pair of rain pants, I set out down the street to the valley pathway. It was still pouring hard, but I felt very warm and snug in my outfit. I could hear the thundering sound of fast flowing flood water, before I made it to a spot where I could see the dirty flows traveling thru the trees and willows far back from the stream’s normal channel.

The kind of flooding happened many years ago on the Bighill Creek, but I can’t put an exact year on it. During the Bow River Flood in 2013, the BH Creek was not flowing this high, but the nearby Jumpingpound Creek was. Later I would discover that the JP Creek was not impacted as much as the Bighill Creek was, this time around.

How Will This Impact Our Plantings From This Spring?

Amazingly, this flood event didn’t hurt as many of our willow and tree plants as other high flow events have. When the surface of a high flow event is level with the plants that we planted, for a prolonged period of time, the floating debris can strip the tops right off of the plants. However, during this flash flood event, the water came up so fast that the plants were covered by deep water for most of it, so there wasn’t as much floating material to cover the plants, as there has been during previous high flow events.

When the water levels came down, I was please to see some of the willows that Glenbow Elementary students planted on BH Creek, were still looking pretty healthy, despite the torrent of water they had been submerged under. The photo above was taken as soon as the sun started to shine, a day after the big flood event.

All of the beaverdams along the BH Creek were breached during the flood event of June 21st, 2019. This will allow trout migration upstream as the water levels receed. The high volumes of water that past thru the Bighill Valley will scour out new pool habitats, create log jams and cover habitats for trout and deepen runs, undercuts and other pocket pools on the stream. This will all benefit the trout habitat on the stream.

The new scoured gravelbeds will provide great spawning habitat this next fall, so this will also be a side benefit to the flood of 2019. I am hoping that all of the moisture this June will also recharge the acquifers and ground water table to help maintain good flows in the BH Creek for the rest of the open water season. Floods do benefit trout streams, after they are over.

This willow may be covered in grass from the big flood, however, the leaves are in great shape and the plant will survive this first season. The grass around the cutting will help deter voles and mice from chewing the bark of the plant. The flattened canary grass around the willow will eventually spring back to a standing position, but in the meantime, the willow will get plenty of sunlight.

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Great Spring For Growth!

New Willows and Trees are Growing Fast This Spring

As I sit at my desk and look out the window, a passing thunder head has just released buckets of rain and some fast melting hail stones onto the slopes of Bighill Creek. As soon as the cloud passes completly, I will wonder down to check out the creek and see how much flow is rushing down to the Bow River. It will benefit the creek and all of the native plants of area riparian habitat, having all this moisture this spring. We have also had plenty of nice sun shine to compliment the falling rain periods this month, so far.

The rain has also helped grow the plants from previous years, which are now starting to show along the stream banks. Different shades of green are now enhancing the stream banks along the Bighill Creek. This is really exciting to witness,  at least for me – anyway. It is very transformational and the longterm benefits are incredible for both fish and wildlife. Not to mention the huge improvement in water quality.

This young plant was planted by some elementary school kids this spring and you can see how well it is growing already this June. The willows in the background were planted during previous year’s planting along the BH Creek. You can see how previously planted willows are now casting seeds into the stream and over the immediate stream bank. This natural reproduction will only enhance our planted crop with recruitment of many new plants, over time.

The rain and hail has passed and it is time to walk down to the creek for a look see.

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2019 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – Now Completed

Over 11,000 New Native Plants For The 2019 Program – Are Now In The Ground On Bighill, West Nose and Nose Creeks!

The last native plant was planted on June 1st, completing this spring’s riparian planting program. It was a good spring for planting, with enough moisture in the ground over the month of May, to ensure a good survival rate for our crop of new native willows and trees.

Left: The new plants that were grown from cuttings, will grow over the summer and add to the previous crops of native plants that have been planted along the stream banks on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek, and Nose Creek. Most are planted right next to the water’s edge, but some are also planted further back from the stream bank. All of the new plants will benefit the health of the stream’s riparian eco-system. A slow transformation is taking place on these streams!

Above: This native willow plant was planted in 2015 and it is now providing some overhead cover for the stream’s trout population. The willow will continue to grow out and over the stream’s surface in future years, helping to constrict flow and increase the velocity of flow in the stream channel.

Above: These native willows were planted on an eroding stream bank in the year 2014. the willows have stabilized the erosion site and now provide great overhead cover for the resident trout in the pool habitat. There are many sites just like this one that have been collectively planted over the years, under the ongoing “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”.

It feels pretty good to be part of this riparian planting program, and BVHD would like to thank the partners for this year’s planting program:

Inter Pipeline – Shell Canada  – City of Calgary – City of Airdrie – Cochrane Foundation – Town of Cochrane – Harmony Developments

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