Basin Spring Creek is a
small spring creek to lower Pearson Creek and eventually Chamberlain Creek. It forms
at the base of a high river terrace and flows west 0.7 miles through sedge and willow
wetlands along the base of a lower river terrace. Spring discharge is
approximately 2 to 4 cfs.
Historically, the combined flow of
Basin and Pearson Creeks occupied the same channel. While Pearson Creek was diverted
for several decades, Basin Spring Creek occupied the channel, flowing through a drained
wetland and heavily impacted stream channel. Under previous ownership, Basin Spring
Creek was the water source for a livestock wintering area and was diverted down an
irrigation ditch for the length of the stream. Heavy livestock use, runoff from the
feedlot, dewatering of the stream and drainage of a 9-acre wetland caused extreme
degradation to this spring creek system.
Restoration of Basin Spring Creek
involved restoring the 9-acre wetland and constructing a 200-foot channel connecting this
wetland to an intact wetland downstream, allowing the seasonal movement of fish through
the system. From the source area to the wetland, the stream was narrowed to the
geometry of an E5 channel type and the old irrigation diversion was removed. Woody
debris was added to pools and native shrubs were planted along damaged banks.
Changes to riparian management included removing wintering livestock from the riparian
area and initiating low impact grazing system with deferred grazing in the spring source
area. The final element of restoration was the reconnection of Pearson Creek to its
historically channel (See Pearson Creek).
Before and during construction.
Basin Creek after restoration.
Brook trout dominated a fish sample
taken prior to restoration with a catch/unit effort of 16.7; longnose suckers (8.5) and
one rainbow trout (0.4). After the project was completed, 90 pure strain westslope
cutthroat trout were collected from Pearson Creek and added to the system. In the
spring of 1996, two cutthroat trout redds were observed in the source area. Beaver
have also colonized the wetland since project completion. The presence of beaver may
benefit the cutthroat trout fishery by plugging the channel between the wetlands except
during high flow periods, thereby allowing the selective passage of cutthroat trout.
Cutthroat trout recruits from Pearson Creek have been documented moving into Basin Creek
and its wetland area. Hook-an-line surveys from 1996 to 1999 showed good
numbers of cutthroat trout in the spring creek/wetland system.