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Chamberlain Creek

Location map for Chamberlain Creek in the Blackfoot Watershed

Chamberlain Creek, a second-order tributary stream with base flows of 2 to 4 cfs, flows north 10 miles before joining the Blackfoot River at river mile 44. This stream generally flows through a confined valley, with a slightly sinuous channel characterized as a B4 Rosgen stream type. A 1990 habitat survey documented a excellent population of westslope cutthroat trout at stream mile 3.9; however, immediately below this location, barriers to fish migration, poor instream habitat, chronic dewatering, and an instream pond development severely limited its contribution to the Blackfoot River. 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. Chamberlain Creek ranked 21 of 83 streams surveyed.

In 1990 restoration projects began in the Chamberlain Creek drainage. Projects have ranged from riparian fencing, 1.5 miles of instream restoration, reconstruction of a irrigation canal with a fish ladder, two instream water leases secured, conversion from flood irrigation to sprinkler, and a conservation easement was secured with The Nature Conservancy.

Chamberlain Creek during restoration    Chamberlain Creek after restoration
During and after stream restoration

New irrigation canal with fish ladder on Chamberlain Creek
Reconstruction of an irrigation canal with a fish ladder.

In a radio telemetry study where spawning westslope cutthroat trout were tagged in the Blackfoot River during 1997 and 1998 and tracked, more radio tagged cutthroat moved into Chamberlain Creek to spawn than any other Blackfoot River tributary. Sixty-eight cutthroat trout redds were located in a two-mile section of Chamberlain Creek in 1998. Several spawning adults were located in pools created during restoration efforts. In 2001, westslope cutthroat trout showed continued stable to improving densities in areas influenced by restoration, including river mile 0.1 where westslope cutthroat numbers increased to 184 fish/1,000 feet.

Bar graph showing westslope cutthroat trout distribution in Chamberlain Creek in 1989 and 1998

In addition, four juvenile bull trout were captured in the lower 4.0 miles of Chamberlain Creek in 1997 and 1998. These were the first bull trout recorded in Chamberlain Creek in 18 years of sampling.

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