Reducing sediment, Garrett Ranch Co. utilizes new methods in Bolton Creek
Casper – The Bolton Creek Restoration Project is made up of a series of research and development endeavors, which will help reduce the amount of sediment transported from Bolton Creek to the North Platte River.
This series of projects will help keep the river clear and healthy, as well as maintain a healthy fish population in the river.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) hosted a tour of the restoration project on June 5 to show landowners, contributors to the project and members of the public the project’s success of reduced sediment deposition and erosion to the area.
“If we can keep one pickup truck load of dirt out of the river, we are making progress,” stated Keith Schoup, WGFD habitat biologist. “This is going to be a long-term project and all nature provided.”
He added, “We are hoping that, within the next three to five years, we’ll be able to maintain this two and a half mile stretch we are working and focusing on now and then move to the next section upstream.”
To help monitor the water level of Bolton Creek, four water-monitoring pumps were placed along the creek. These pumps are equipped with an electric pressure system and will continuously record the water level of the creek.
“The idea is, the more water we can store on the floodplain terraces of the creek, the longer the water will last throughout the year,” explained Joe Meyer, field manager with the Bureau of Land Management.
He continued, “With the snowmelt and rainfall gone, the water will be higher along the creek bank than it is in creek. The water will then flow back towards the creek and be available for longer periods of time for plants, wildlife and livestock to use.”
The beaver’s capabilities of building dams are being highlighted by the project to help disperse and slow the flow of water of Bolton Creek. With the creek running slower and shallower, the theory is the occurrence of erosion will be reduced.
“It’s amazing what beaver can do, given the opportunity,” stated Schoup. “They can turn a dry area into a wetland in a matter of days and have more grass grow by the creek beds.”
The project also relocated problem beaver to the creek area in hopes of augmenting the already established beaver population along Bolton Creek.
“We don’t know for sure how many beaver we have in Bolton Creek,” commented Schoup, “but we have released six nuisance beaver into the area to help augment the population, and two of them have transmitters.”
Schoup explained beavers prefer to eat the bark of young fresh Aspen trees. One mature beaver can consume between six to eight pounds of woody material per day, but once the wood becomes too old, the beaver are not interested in using it.
Since the new introduction of beaver to Bolton Creek, landowner Pete Garrett of Garrett Ranch Company commented that he has seen an improvement in the western wild rye grass and willows growing along the creek.
Garrett also mentioned the beaver dams have helped deposit sediment along the sides of the creek, which help narrow and shallow the creek.
“We used to not be able to cross a horse across the creek. The sides of the creek used to be straight up and down,” described Garrett. “Today, we can see the siltation building up along the sides of the creek, and we can now cross a horse through with no problem.”
He added, “Before we had to follow a cow around to get out of there.”
“We may have lost a lot of older cottonwoods to the beaver,” mentioned Garrett, “but once the beaver have a dam built, it keeps the siltation back, and in the next two to four years, we’ll have a whole new crop of young cottonwoods growing in the backwaters created by the dams.”
To help reduce the beaver from cutting down all of the cottonwoods along the creek, the City of Casper and the Wyoming State Forestry Division (WSFD) provided thousands of pounds of trees from the Muddy Mountain area and leftover tree branch material from storms for the beaver to use as a food source and to build dams with.
Bryan Anderson, district forester with the WSFD, mentioned thus far they’ve had 2,000 to 3,000 new seedlings of trees per acre of regeneration in the Muddy Mountain area from removing the old aspen for the beaver.
The trees and branches were brought to the area by dump truck and aerially with a helicopter.
“We know that we have 17 dams built out of the aspen since last fall, and we’ll monitor the dams again this coming fall,” noted Schoup. “The most active period for the beaver is during the fall, starting in September through November.”
Practices that have been implemented for the Bolton Creek Restoration Project consist of installing a bottomless culvert and water-monitoring wells, as well as placing old Christmas trees in a Chevron pattern in the tributaries of Bolton Creek to trap sediment.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department Regional Fisheries Supervisor Al Conder estimates the amount of sediment traveling from Bolton Creek to the North Platte River, at a flow of six cubic feet per second (CFS), is between 30 to 35 tons daily. This is equivalent to three large dump trucks.
One CFS is equivalent to 7.48 gallons of water per second.
“When the creek is running at 10 CFS, not even doubling the amount of flow, the amount of sediment moving into the river is the same as putting 10 dump truck loads into the river per day,” he added.
Conder went on to further note, “With each ton of sediment, we are able to hold upstream, it will help the water quality of the river and maybe help water treatment plants on downstream.”
Major partners in the Bolton Creek Restoration Project are landowners Pete and Ethel Garrett and family of Garrett Ranch Company, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund.
Other conservation organizations and foundations contributing to the project are the Wyoming Fly Casters, Mule Deer Foundation, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition and the Great Plains Fish Habitat Partnership.
“We all know that none of us would have been able to accomplish any of these projects that reduce sediment and erosion in the area by ourselves,” commented Keith Schoup, Wyoming Game and Fish habitat biologist. “I certainly would like to thank all of our partners and cooperators in this project.”
The project costs for the Bolton Creek Restoration Project have amounted to $165,182 for in-kind contributions and $122,465 in monetary donations.