Bow Valley Habitat Development

5 Glenport Road

Cochrane, Alberta

T4C 1G8

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    In recent years, Bow Valley Habitat Development started a different path in its trout stream fish habitat enhancement efforts. It all began back in the year 2012. Rather than tackling the complex In-Stream fish habitat enhancement projects that it had been completing over the previous years, it turned toward using a simpler method of long term trout habitat creation.       

  This new approach involved the use of native willow and tree stock for the creation of future  natural riparian and in-stream fish habitat. The objective was to be achieved by the planting of small diameter cuttings that would grow over time to provide both in-stream and riparian cover habitat.

    The recovery of a natural riparian growth zone or buffer along the stream banks of a creek that had been stripped of it over the years, would create other beneficial results. The improvement to both water quality and stream bank stability would become apparent, over time, as well.

Trout Stream Habitat Enhancement


Going Natural — The New Direction In Fish Habitat Enhancement

    Riparian planting programs can be very cost effective, especially if a volunteer force is used to help get the job done. The only drawback in riparian planting projects, is that they take years to show some of the full benefits.


    However, if you are not in a big hurry to transform the landscape, mother nature is the best partner to have, especially when it comes to trout stream restoration projects. Mother nature always puts the final brush strokes on the final results of fish habitat enhancement projects that you decide to complete.


    Fish and invertebrate habitat in all natural flowing trout streams is enhanced by the presence of natural materials, such as boulders, woody debris and living willows, trees and root systems along the water’s edge.

    Even pool habitats are developed and influenced by the presence of some type of structure, substrate or change in a streams gradient. These influences can be a result of available natural materials. Timber, woody debris, boulders or heavily willowed shoreline cover on a flowing stream.


    Usually, the presence of a thick riparian timber cover makes the best in-stream fish habitat. Timber growing tight along the stream banks will eventually end up in the stream channel. By flood or thru stream bank erosion.


    Timber washes into the stream during high flow events or just merely trees and willows that fall into the water over time, will all contribute to good in-stream habitat. Any woody debris provides both cover habitat and it also enhances invertebrate populations, providing a good supply of food for trout.

    The creation of a healthy wooded riparian zone is a simple process for anyone or any group to set as an objective. The native willow and tree plants must be from the watershed. It is also important that the right type of riparian cover is planted. If most of the streams in the terrain or area where you are planting are deciduous, you must plant deciduous willows and trees.


    In order to represent or recreate the historic bio-diversity of a stream eco-system, you must plant what was historic to the area, before human development. This will help preserve the native wildlife that is or was known to the area where you are planting. Conifer trees are cheap and readily available, but if they were not present in the area at one time, they should not be planted. Collecting cuttings from native plants that are available upstream or downstream of the planting site is a good start.

Beavers Help  To Create  Trout Habitat In Streams

    Beavers are constantly adding woody debris into stream channels. This helps add trout and invertebrate  habitat into a small creek annually. The wood comes from their dams, a winter food stash and built lodge. All of the free floating woody debris is moved downstream and distributed during flood events, mainly in the spring. There needs to be an abundant supply of deciduous willows and trees for this to happen every year.

The Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

    This year marks the fifth season of riparian planting under the project title “ Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. As of this fall of 2018, we have planted 60,714 native willows and trees on over thirty kilometres of stream bank.


    There are three tributaries of the Bow River that are the focus of this riparian recovery program. They are: Nose Creek; West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek. The planting has been carried out by volunteers of all ages, both school, corporate and NGO groups have been involved.

    Plants that were planted during the first year of the program are now growing to a height that is becoming more noticeable in the landscape. These first plants are also already starting to provide stream bank stability and habitat for both fish, invertebrates and wildlife.


    It usually takes about five or six years for the small plants to grow enough to show up enough on the large expanse of stream channel on some of the creeks in the program. There are long stretches of Nose Creek and West Nose Creek that are    

void of any native willows and trees, prior to planting. Now some areas are starting to transform, with the newly planted native willows and trees.


    Presently, Bow Valley Habitat Development is working on a partnership for the 2019 planting season. Hopefully, we will have another great year, with plenty of new plants for the stream banks. I look forward to showing you some dramatic before and after photos of some of the sites, in the future. It takes time to see the results, but change is definitely happening.

Right Photo:


These are willows that are growing along the water’s edge. They were planted in 2015, along the stream bank on West Nose Creek. Further downstream, a beaver dam has backed up the water, partially submerging some of the newly planted willows. This is ok, because the willows will continue to grow in the 2019 growing season.

The Importance of  Stream — Woody Debris  -   For Trout Habitat

    If you read articles about fish habitat in streams, you will have heard the words “woody debris” used considerably. The reason for this is that twigs, branches, tree trunks and dead willow bushes are important components of stream fish habitat. Including the habitat that they create for aquatic invertebrates as well.

    Much of what ends up in a stream is the result of beaver activity, flood events and just the presence of a thick riparian growth of willows and trees along the stream banks. Debris jams of timber and willow can create pool habitats and excellent overhead cover for a resident trout population.

    What are commonly described as log jams, can back up the flow in a small stream and create a deep water habitat just upstream of the woody debris jam on the stream channel. So basically, a woody debris jam can create habitat over a substantial length of the stream channel.

    It is also widely known, among fish habitat experts,  that lots of woody debris in a medium to small size stream will enhance spawning habitat over time. The dynamics of flow over and in between woody debris, collects and cleans spawn ing sized gravel, which trout will used for excavating their redds.

    In silt laden streams, where exposed clean gravel is limited, the scoured pools and pockets of deep water habitats are created by woody debris jams, or submerged fallen timber. The floating dead willow and tree limbs can collect at areas where live willows hang over the stream channel; this will result in numerous areas of good overhead cover for trout.

    The photo to the right shows a good example of both pool and overhead cover, created by a jam up of woody debris. It is habitat such as this that supports a resident trout population, year round, on small trout streams.

Perfect Pool and Overhead cover Habitat

The thalwag from the woody debris jam flows into an undercut stream bank

The pool habitat and woody debris collected on the live willows at the end of the pool, has created perfect trout habitat —year round. Along with lots of food (Aquatic Invertebrates) for trout.

Trout Wintering Habitats on Small Streams *****

Stream Bank Cover on Small Creeks and Winter Snow’s Effects *****

Canary Grass and Willows *****

Fly Tying Hobby Art and Tradition ****

Wild Trout—True Survivors ****

Small Spring Feeder Stream Spawning Habitat ****

New Generations of Wild Trout ****

Fish and Riparian Habitat Stream

Enhancement ***

January 2019