Ranch Creek vegetation project

A group of volunteers ready for a hard day of willow planting on Ranch Creek.
A group of volunteers ready for a hard day of willow planting on Ranch Creek.

Over 3 days this spring, 70 volunteers from both sides of the Divide helped harvest and plant more than 2,000 willow stakes on a one mile section of Ranch Creek. This project site was chosen for vegetation work because past ranching practices had destroyed all willow growth and other wetlands plants. The current landowner has fenced his cattle from the stream to allow the riparian zone to re-establish. Learning By Doing partnered with the Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited and received a Patagonia Enviro grant to give the recovery of healthy wetlands plants in this stream reach a jump start.

Ranch Creek flattens out and flows slowly through this mile-long project section. Without shade from willows, this slow moving section of stream is heating up to temperatures that put it on the State’s 303(d) impaired river’s list for temperature. In the hotter summer months, temperatures that reach lethal levels for trout are flowing from Ranch Creek into the Fraser River just above the public fishing reach in the Fraser Canyon. If all goes as planned, the willows will become established and help alleviate this problem.

Without willows setting deep roots, the soils on each outside bend are eroding rapidly and sending sediment downstream that damage bug habitat and spawning grounds. The project focused on planting deep rooting willows on all outside bends to help stabilize the stream banks.

When the willows grow tall enough to help shade the stream, they will also help provide a canopy for other wetlands plants which will create a healthy riparian zone. The riparian zone is the filter for the river and can help alleviate higher ammonia levels coming from nearby cattle pastures.

Thanks to everyone that worked on this project. You are healing Ranch Creek, the Fraser River and the environment that depends on our rivers and streams in Grand County.