2017 June Riparian Planting Update

Native Plants are Growing Fast

This year, we have experienced great growing conditions in our area. The ground along the stream banks has maintained good moisture since our first plantings in early May this spring. If we don’t get any significant floods on the local streams, the riparian plantings on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek should fair well. The lush growth along the streams has also distracted rodent populations from focusing on our new native willows and trees thus far.

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Left: This willow plant was planted in the first week of May this spring. The photo was taken in the third week of June, so you can see the plants are doing well this early in the season. Good growth by the fall will help insure high survival rates for the entire crop of native willows and trees.

The plant in the photo is one of many planted on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. Over 4,000 plants will be planted on this stream in 2017, so it is another great year.                                                                                           

In total, there will be over 8,000 native willows and trees planted this season. The distance of stream bank planted will be approximately over 7 kilometres on all three streams in the program. The riparian plantings are part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. The program is an ongoing riparian recovery project carried out by Bow Valley Habitat Development and its many partners.

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Spring Riparian Planting Program Complete

June 8th, ATCO Planting on West Nose Creek

On June 8th, of this spring, the final spring riparian planting was completed on West Nose Creek in the City of Calgary. A total of 12 volunteers from ATCO planted 500 native willow plants along the stream banks of West Nose in a matter of a few hours of volunteer time. 400 plants were provided by ATCO and another 100 by Bow Valley Habitat Development for the event.

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left: Volunteers from ATCO pose behind the 500 native willow plants at the start of the June 8th planting event on West Nose Creek. It only took a few hours of hard work to plant the native crop into a soft – moist soil along the edge of the stream. This is the fifth year that ATCO has participated in the riparian recovery program.

ATCO got involved with the riparian recovery program that Bow Valley Habitat Development organized, back in 2013, when they completed their first planting on Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. They have always provided a great planting team of volunteers for our riparian recovery program and it is my hope that this will continue into the future.

The planting was part of the ATCO “Day of Caring” annual event. The planting was also part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. Bow Valley Habitat Development has more planting planned for the fall of 2017. So far this year, we have planted a total of 7,730 native willow and tree plants on Bighill Creek, Nose Creek and West Nose Creek.

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June 2017 Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

New Issue of Magazine

I just recently uploaded the June issue of Stream Tender Magazine. Hopefully, you will check this publication out for the latest news and updates. The magazine is formatted to be viewed on a computer screen, so keep this in mind.

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program Update

So far this spring, the total number of native willows and trees planted is 7,230, which is a great start to this year’s BVRR&E Program. There are more plantings in both June and later on this fall, which will bring the total to over 8,000 plants. Another great year.

Recently, I visited West Nose Creek to see how the plants from the first week of May’s planting are doing. I am happy to report that the survival rate is high so far, with limited rodent damage. It has been a good spring for plantings so far, with plenty of moisture in the ground along the area streams.

While inspecting this year’s plantings, I also stopped off at last years sites. Despite a major flood in July on West Nose Creek, there are still a good portion of last year’s plants that are doing well. Dealing with floods and rodent damage is part of the program, so seeing survival numbers in some planting locations high is very rewarding.

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This is one of the plants that was planted three weeks earlier on West Nose Creek. The willow plant is off to a good start for this year’s growing season.




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There are three plants in this photo, from last year’s planting on West Nose Creek. Later on this summer they will be hidden in the tall shoreline grasses, but right now they stand out. Some will be grazed upon by rodents such as muskrats, when the plants are still this small.



Stream Bank Stabilization Sites on West Nose Creek

As of this year’s planting program, there are over 100 stream bank stabilization sites on West Nose Creek. This spring some major erosion sites were planted with the first treatment of native willows. Due to the high flow events on this stream, during heavy rainfalls in the spring and summer, the first plantings were done high on the banks.

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This eroding stream bank has its first planting of native willows, high above the waterline. Hopefully, these new plants will stabilize this stream bank over time.



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This close up photo shows the first planting treatment on the eroding stream bank on West Nose Creek. The root systems of these plants will help to hold the exposed soil on the bank in place, over time.

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Spring Riparian Plantings Moving Along

Student Planting Event

On May 25th, a group of CW Perry Middle School students showed up on a planting site on Nose Creek, in the City of Airdrie. The teacher, Mike Dow, had contacted me earlier in the year about getting involved in the riparian planting program along Nose Creek, which flows close to the school. We organized an event for a student group in late May and yesterday the project was completed as planned.

In approximately 2 hours, the group of 4 adults and 12 students planted 200 native willow plants over approximately a 200 metre reach of the Nose Creek. The planting went very fast, most likely attributed to the cool morning temperatures that encouraged all of the young planters to keep moving to stay warm. It was good fun and the kids did a great job of planting the new crop of riparian growth.

Due to the nearby location of the school, both teachers and students can monitor the recovery of the riparian zone at the planting site in future years. There is a good chance that we can get together and do another planting next year.

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Bighill Creek Bank Stabilization Sites

There are a total of 58 stream bank stabilization sites that have been planted in recent years, as part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. The stream is close to my home, so occasional visits to the sites is common practice. This spring, some of the plants from previous plantings are starting to stand out on the eroding stream banks that have been planted. Over time, the root systems from the native willow plants will help to stabilize the eroding slopes and reduce the amount of annual silt loading.

DSCF1547 enhanced small fileAbove: This stream bank stabilization site on the Bighill Creek has a good crop of native willow plants that had been planted over the previous three years. The growth is slow at the site, but the surviving native willows are well rooted and helping to hold the soil in place on the steep outside bend in the stream channel.

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program 2017 – May 21st Update

2017 Program Underway

The 2017 BVRR&E Program is well underway, with good numbers of native willows and trees in the ground so far. The planting program started in the first week of May and conditions for planting have been really good, with moist ground along the stream banks making the soil ideal for planting the new plants.

As of today, May 21st, there are 5,800 plants planted along the stream banks of Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek. Most of the planting over the past 3 years has occurred on Bighill Creek’s limited planting area of approximately 1.7 kilometres of stream bank, with a number of bank stabilization sites added on to this length of channel. Because of this intensive planting on the Bighill Creek, the multiple plantings are showing the best results.

DSCF1507 cropped and enhancedAbove: Willows from previous plantings are standing out along the stream banks of Bighill Creek these days. The multiple plantings on the BH Creek in recent years has resulted in the most obvious recovery in the riparian zone, especially along the water’s edge.

On Nose Creek and West Nose Creek, new lengths of stream channel are getting the first planting, so the recovery of the riparian zone will take longer to be recognized, but it will happen over time. The Bighill Creek planting program is getting close to being completed, so you can expect more photo evidence of this in future publications of this blog and the Stream Tender Magazine. I look forward to showing you some good before and after photos in the near future.

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Great News for Bighill Creek Trout Fishery

Upper Spring Creek Brook Trout Hatch a Success

One of the most important spawning tributaries to the Bighill Creek is located further up the system. Its location makes it a very important spawning habitat for recruiting new generations of trout into the Bighill Creek annually. It is better to have recruitment on the upper reaches of the Bighill Creek, because the newly hatched trout will easily work their way down the system, rather that have to fight their way upstream. Due to a number of beaver dams, the task of upstream migration is very difficult for trout of all sizes.

In the fall of 2016, there were record numbers of brook trout redds, mapped and documented on the Upper Spring Creek. It was very important that a successful incubation of those eggs and a hatch of new trout would occur this spring. I am happy to report that the eggs are hatching and new trout are emerging from the spawning beds this spring. With an emergence window of over two weeks, the signs of early hatching and the appearance of juvenile brook trout fry holds great promise for the tributary.

IMG_5801 cropped small fileAbove: This 2017 brook trout fry was holding in shallow lateral margin habitat, and I was able to take this close up of the tiny trout. It thought that it was safe, holding in a cover of detritus while I stocked in close for a photo or two. The large head and eyes are a dead giveaway for a newly hatched trout fry.

With successful hatches also occurring on Millennium Creek and Ranch House Spring Creek this spring, we can look forward to a huge increase in the trout populations on Bighill Creek. There was also substantial spawning that occurred in the main stem of the Bighill, but verification of that hatch is very difficult to determine, without a timely investigation. However, I suspect that with the clean flows of the creek during the fall and winter, there should be a relatively good hatch as well.

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2017 Riparian Planting Program – Ready To Go

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program 2017

This past week, the frost has finally left the stream banks and we are ready to go with the 2017 riparian planting program. This year will see a planting of over 8,000 native willow and tree plants on the three streams in the program, plus some smaller plantings on a number of tributaries and other local streams. I am really looking forward to getting started in the next few days.

After the past three years of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”, it is nice to see plants from those years taking root along stream banks and especially on eroding stream banks, where the benefits will be the most apparent for improving water quality in the streams. Soil that was once being washed into the stream channel at these bank erosion sites in now being stabilized by the root systems of our native plantings.

IMG_5787 small fileAbove: In this 2017 early spring photo of an eroding stream bank on the Bighill Creek, you can see plants that have been planted between 2014 and 2016, in the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. Although clumps of sod and some soil are still entering the stream channel, the bank site is stabilizing and in a few more years, when the slope is less severe, this annual silt loading will be stopped. The height of this slope is approximately 3 feet, which is hard to tell from this photo.

You can check out the June issue of Stream Tender Magazine, for more information on this and other local grassroots enhancement programs. There will also be some good news on this year’s brook trout hatch on three local tributaries to the Bighill Creek.

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West Nose Creek Inspection

Past Willow Plantings Showing Along Stream Banks

This past week, I visited a few planting sites along the West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. It was nice to see native willow plants from the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” were starting to show along the water’s edge at previously planted reaches of the creek. The new plants were covered with catkins, ready for seeding later on in the spring. Despite a heavy cover of shoreline sedge, the plants are advanced in growth enough to stand out, hanging over the stream channel.

Some of the plants had been grazed upon by the resident beaver and muskrat populations in the stream, but these plants are established enough to survive the foraging, with new buds from the remaining stocks already to break into leaf, later on in the spring. At some point in time in the future, additional plants will take place along the same reach of the West Nose Creek, but for now, previous plantings will continue to be monitored.

IMG_5762 small fileAbove: You can see the new willows growing out from under a cover of shoreline grasses and sedge, along the creek. The willows are mature enough now to be foraged upon by beavers and still survive. I look forward to taking pictures of the same reach a few years down the road.

So far, on West Nose Creek, there are a total of 96 stream bank stabilization sites that have already been planted in the program. A number of the sites are erosion sites that were already showing exposed soil that would enter the stream annually. The new native willows and trees that were planted over past years, are now helping to stabilize the stream banks and reduce silt loading into the stream channel. These sites are especially important, because they have a direct impact on the amount of suspended fines that were being washed into the creek, causing huge amounts of muck to settle on the stream-bed, smothering the existing cobble and gravel on much of the bottom.

After a few years from when plantings occurred, a number of the stabilization sites are showing good native willow growth. The network of root systems establishing in the loose soil on eroding banks is helping to hold the banks together. Future secondary plantings will take place on these sites in the future as well.

IMG_5763 small fileAbove: You can see the native willows that had been planted in previous years on this unstable stream bank. There is still loose soil showing on the eroding bank, but over time this site will stabilize. More planting is planned for the future.

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Great Trout Hatch on Ranch House Spring Creek 2017

This Year’s Trout Fry Emergence on RHS Creek Has Started

After a lot of volunteer time spent prior to the 2016 fall spawn on Ranch House Spring Creek, the reward of witnessing a successful emergence of new brook trout for the system is very gratifying. It all began in the last week of March of 2017 when the first few trout were spotted along the stream. By the first week of April, many more young brook trout were appearing in lateral margins, both in and downstream of spawning beds.

Last fall a record number of egg nests or redds were mapped during the fall spawning season. A total of 32 redds was the largest number documented since the 2010 RHS Creek Project was completed. In 2010, a small waterfall was removed and a section of steep gradient was stepped down, using opposing rock deflectors. The successful completion of this project made the middle portion of the stream accessible for spawning trout. The gravel spawning habitat was already there and ready to be utilized.

The first spawning survey conducted in 2013 showed a total of 16 brook trout redds, now we are at double the number. This means more trout for the Bighill Creek system. The benefits of having three spring fed tributaries on the Bighill Creek that provide successful hatches of new trout annually, is of major importance to the streams trout recovery program. The only spawning tributary that is vulnerable is RHS Creek, due to a storm drain inflow that can whip out a year’s spawned eggs, if we get a late fall run-off event from the development that feeds the storm drain.

IMG_5730 cropped small fileAbove: These two brook trout fry were observed in RHS Creek on April 3rd, of 2017.

Bow Valley Habitat Development will continue its annual maintenance program on Ranch House Spring Creek, to insure that the spawning brook trout have free passage up to the spawning grounds.

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Sweeping Bow River Regulation Changes Have Local Impacts

As of 2017, the entire Bow River sport fishery is open all year with a zero harvest limit. This should make a lot of fly fishers very happy, but there are certain consequences that will impact some tributaries to the Bow River in our area. Prior to the new regulations, streams such as Bighill Creek were regulated in the fishing guideline regulations, under the section of Bow River and tributaries between Ghost Dam and Bearspaw. This meant that the regulations permitted only one trout under 35 cm could be harvested on a daily catch limit, during a portion of the open water season. This discouraged most anglers that like to keep a few trout for the dinner table.

Now that the new regulations are in place, those tributary streams in our reach of the Bow River will fall under the general Zone regulations for all streams not mentioned in the specific listings. This general guideline for streams allows a 2 trout daily limit, with both rainbow and cutthroat trout requiring to be greater than 35 cm in length. Brown trout and brook trout have no size restriction. Unfortunately, Bighill Creek and some other local streams are now open for a two trout harvest, from June 16th until August 31st. This is bad news for our trout fishery recovery program for the Bighill Creek.

You would think that because we are working very hard on bringing this trout stream back to life, we would have some type of protection in the fishing regulations during this endeavor. In modern times, it is a real blow to conservation minded anglers that an increase in the harvest of wild trout would occur after many years of progress has been made in the direction of a total catch and release policy for our wild trout streams.

Another stream that is undergoing a trout recovery program is the West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. Right now, there is a very small population of resident brown trout that are showing signs of an increase in reproduction for populating the creek. Surprisingly, under the present fishing regulations, there is also a two trout harvest limit on this stream as well. I shutter at the thought of someone killing a mature brown trout or two on the West Nose Creek, just to provide a meal. The impact of loosing these mature trout at this point in time is very troubling to me and those that are working hard to help the trout fishing recover in the West Nose Creek.

You would think that two trout streams that are located in such a highly populated area of the Bow River watershed, would receive the special attention that they need to make a come back. This should include a special listing in the fishing regulations that states a zero catch limit.

Further More – We loose 2.5 months of open season Fly Fishing

Up until 2016, the opening day for fly fishing on the Bighill Creek was April 1st, which made perfect sense, because brown trout and brook trout spawn in the fall. However, in the new regulations, the opening day has been moved forward to June 16th. The June 16th opening day was designed to protect spring spawning rainbow and cutthroat trout, so because neither of these trout spawn on Bighill Creek, there is no point in having such a late opening day. Catch and release fly fishers are now faced with finding another destination to fish, because of this new regulation.  There is no benefit to the fishery in this, nor does it protect the fishery in any way. Totally unnecessary.

Yet, angling is still allowed during the fall spawning period for brown trout and brook trout. Although there is a zero catch limit in the fall spawning period, the harassment of spawning trout is unsportsmanlike and a shame in my mind. Pretty much all of the fly fishers that I know that fish the creek, avoid fishing during the spawning season on the creek, including myself.

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