UM BRIDGES Trainee Works With Trout Unlimited on Restoration Project

Aerial view of Rock Creek and Ranch Creek Confluence

Ranch Creek is a tributary of Rock Creek located in western Montana. It is federally designated critical spawning and rearing habitat for threatened bull trout and is also documented spawning habitat for native westslope cutthroat trout and other migratory fish. Historic manipulation of the floodplain and channel morphology on two reaches of lower Ranch Creek has impacted fish habitat and floodplain connectivity. Past disturbances include land clearing and construction of irrigation ditches for agriculture, heavy grazing, and road development in the floodplain.


UM BRIDGES trainee David Busby has been working with Trout Unlimited to assess current geomorphic and biologic conditions within the impaired reaches of lower Ranch Creek. The objective is to determine the legacy impacts from historic land use and identify current limiting factors to the fishery and stream function. Busby’s work has included drone surveys to map and build 3-dimensional models of impaired reaches, electrofishing surveys to understand current trout population dynamics, and an assessment of channel migration and floodplain connectivity. These efforts will contribute to the larger goal of restoring the channel and floodplain of lower Ranch Creek to natural conditions for the benefit of bull trout and other migratory fish species.