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.
During and after stream
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.
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.