Vermilion River Restoration
The Vermilion River represents the single largest Bull Trout spawning stream in more than 100 miles of the mainstem Lower Clark Fork River drainage and is also a stronghold for westslope cutthroat trout. Historically, the river has been impaired by upstream clear-cutting and significant mining activity, which has decreased the stability of this drainage. In 2007, the Kootenai National Forest – Cabinet Ranger District completed a watershed assessment and preliminary restoration plan for the Vermilion River. This document outlines a series of top-down, watershed-wide restoration projects that we are working collaboratively to implement.
The first project was completed in 2012, at Chapel Slide, and rerouted the channel of the mainstem Vermilion River away from a large slide and greatly reduced the amount of sediment input into the river. Post-restoration monitoring of the restoration indicated that there is improved channel stability, successful riparian planting and increased Bull Trout spawning use of this reach.
The second project implemented on the Vermilion River is the Miners Gulch Stream and Riparian Restoration Project, which restored a degraded segment of stream and floodplain to improve and protect native fish habitat. It is the largest stream restoration project implemented in the Lower Clark Fork watershed so far and involves re-shaping the stream channel, installation of in-stream wood and rock structures, re-construction of the floodplain surface, and aggressive riparian planting program to establish native trees and shrubs in the floodplain. The first phase of this project (stream and floodplain construction) was implemented in the summer of 2016, and the second phase (riparian planting) took place in the summer of 2017. The film below documents this project.