U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service logo


Elk Creek

Location map for Elk Creek in the Blackfoot Watershed

Elk Creek, a third-order tributary, flows 14 miles northwest through a mineralized section of the Garnet Mountains before entering the Blackfoot River at river mile 28. Its base flow is approx. 4 cfs.  Extensive mining, including a century of placer mining in the upper drainage, has severely altered the channel. This land use, combined with channelization, road construction and maintenance activities, and poor drainage problems, continue to contribute large amounts of sediment to the stream.

Sections within the lower 5 miles of Elk Creek riparian corridor have been heavily grazed, creating unstable stream banks. One mile of channel, from stream mile 1.8 to 2.8, was moved from its original location for irrigation in the 1940's. The channel was placed in the upland along the valley wall in glacial lake sediments. The result was vertical channel incision up to 10 feet that produced steep, highly erodible banks. The amount of stream channel sediment in this section was as much as 900% greater than an upstream control section.

Elk Creek showing bank erosion before restoration

Elk Creek before restoration

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. Elk Creek ranked 17 of 83 streams surveyed.

Restoration efforts at two locations in Elk Creek began in 1991. An upstream project directed by the BLM, reconstructed a B4 Channel in an area severely impacted by dredge and placer mining.

After restoration on Elk CreekIn the lower portion of the Creek, initial efforts focused on restoration of the channelized reach, which involved reconstructing a 8,581 foot section of E4 channel type. This project involved moving mature willows from adjacent areas, adding large woody debris, filling in the channelized reach, implementing a deferred rest-rotational grazing system with cross fences and off-site water.

Further improvements to the management of riparian areas are currently being considered on public and private lands through-out the drainage. Changes in stream profile, temperature, sediment and fisheries responses are being monitored for both projects.

Return to the Project Location Map

Blackfoot Valley Watershed
Montana Partners for Fish and Wildlife
Regional Partners for Fish & Wildlife Home Page
Mountain-Prairie Region
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service