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Beaver Creek

Location map for Beaver Creek in the Blackfoot Watershed

Beaver Creek is a third-order tributary to Keep Cool Creek in the Upper Blackfoot Watershed. The source of Beaver Creek is a natural lake called Reservoir Lake. From this source it flows south nine miles to its confluence with Keep Cool Creek with base flows of approx. 6 - 10 cfs. The forested headwaters are part of the Helena National Forest. As the stream enters the wide lower valley, the ownership changes to state and private property. On the private property the stream enters a large scrub-shrub beaver system encompassing several hundred acres in size. Historically, Beaver Creek supported healthy populations of bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout.

Irrigation diversion on Beaver CreekThe native fishery is impacted by four irrigation ditches located towards the mouth of Beaver Creek. These diversions not only block upstream migrations but also entrain downstream migrating fish. Riparian management in the lower reaches of Beaver Creek have also impacted the stream because of improper grazing practices and riparian logging. 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. Beaver Creek is ranked 7 of 83 streams surveyed.

Restoration and protection of the Beaver Creek system began in 1997 with reconstruction of the two upper most irrigation diversions. The upper most diversion was completely replaced with a rock weir structure that allows for upstream fish passage as well as bedload movement. The lower diversion was fitted with a fish ladder for passage.

In 1999, a conservation easement was secured on 90% of the private property in the watershed (2,800 acres). The conservation easement protects the ranch in perpetuity from sub-division, draining or degrading wetlands, sod-busting of native prairie, and commercial timber harvest.

Aerial view of the Beaver Creek Watershed.  In the foreground is the private property protected by the conservation easement. Aerial view of Beaver Creek

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