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Basin Spring Creek

Location map for Basin Spring Creek in the Blackfoot Watershed

Aerial view of Basin Spring CreekBasin 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).

Basin Spring Creek before restoration
Before and during construction.
Basin Spring Creek during construction
Basin Spring Creek after restoration
Basin Creek after restoration.

Fish Populations

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.

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