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Pearson Creek

Location map showing Pearson Creek in the Blackfoot Watershed

Aerial view of Pearson Creek and the Blackfoot RiverPearson Creek, a second-order tributary to lower Chamberlain Creek, originates in the Garnet Mountains and flows north 9 miles, joining Chamberlain Creek and river mile 0.2. This stream is a confined and high-gradient, flowing through a series of plunge, step and lateral pools in its mid to upper reaches. In the lower reaches, gradient drops quickly as the stream enters a high river terrace. Upon leaving the mountains, the lower reach of Pearson Creek skirts the northern edge of a foothill/terrace interface. In this reach, Pearson Creek flows through beaver created wetlands and mixed coniferous forest.  The lower section of Pearson Creek was removed from its natural channel and channelized for irrigation. As a result, the lowermost portion of the creek dissipated into a sedge meadow before entering the Blackfoot River, isolating resident trout while inhibiting tributary access of fluvial fish. In order to prioritize restoration resources, we developed a fisheries-based restoration priority scorecard, based on biological, social and financial considerations, for 83 impaired tributaries of the Blackfoot River. Pearson Creek ranked 31 of 83 streams surveyed.

Restoration of Pearson Creek began with the restoration of Basin Spring Creek in 1994.    Upstream from Basin Spring Creek confluence, restoration efforts consisted of constructing three segments of an E4 channel type and connecting these to existing segments of historical channel. Woody debris was also placed in the channel and vegetation planted to stabilize streambanks. Changes to the management of riparian grazing in the lower 2 miles were also made, including fencing one mile of stream and planting native shrubs and grasses.

In 1996, the landowner donated a water lease for the entire Pearson Creek flow to instream flows. This water lease is a ten-year lease between the landowner and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The lease allows the landowner to donate all of his water rights to instream flows with out jeopardizing the loss of his water rights.
Pearson Creek before restoration
Before instream restoration
and water leasing
Pearson Creek after restoration
After restoration
In 1999, the private landowner who owns the lower three miles of Pearson Creek donated a conservation easement to the Montana Land Reliance protecting this unique habitat in perpetuity. In 2000, continued habitat restoration projects were completed upstream of the restoration work completed between 1994 and 1996. Restoration included placing large woody debris to increase instream complexity; riparian fencing and off-site water; and planting native shrubs in westslope cutthroat spawning and rearing areas.

In 1998, fluvial westslope cutthroat trout were recorded migrating through the area affected by the water lease and habitat restoration work to an upstream spawning area. A 1999 fish population survey recorded young-of-the-year densities at 44.6 fish/100 feet and age 1+ fish densities at 10.9 fish/100 feet immediately upstream of the water lease area. In 2001, age 1+ westslope cutthroat trout densities increased to 23.7 fish/100 feet.


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