Ward Creek, a second-order tributary to
the North Fork of the Blackfoot River, originates on Helena National Forest and flows
southwest 10.8 miles through checkerboard ownership before entering Browns Lake. As the
outlet stream from Browns Lake, Ward Creek then continues through private ranchland for
2.8 miles before entering Kleinschmidt Lake. Below Kleinschmidt Lake, Ward Creek flows
another mile to its confluence with the North Fork of the Blackfoot River at mile 5.0.
Ward Creek is a degraded channel with a
long history of riparian impacts, including over-grazing, dewatering by irrigation,
instream dams, undersized culverts and nutrient loading. Because of these impacts,
population surveys from 2001 turned up no native salmonids remaining in Ward Creek. 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. Ward Creek is ranked 75 of 83 streams
With the exception of
the instream problems, the Ward Creek Watershed is still relatively intact and has been
the core focus for our conservation easement program. Within the Ward Creek Watershed, the
Fish and Wildlife Service owns three Waterfowl Production Areas totaling over 4,500 acres
and holds four conservation easements perpetually protecting 3,840 acres.
Ward Creek flows through the middle of
the Tupper Lake Wetland Complex which supports several plant species of global importance.
The lower watershed is dominated by native bunchgrass and sagebrush prairie surrounding
both Browns Lake and Kleinschmidt Lake. This native prairie supports one of only two
Columbian sharp-tailed grouse leks in the Blackfoot Valley.
Ward Creek and associated wet meadow
wetlands in the upper watershed.
Ward Creek in the middle of the photo is
flowing into Kleinschmidt Lake.