Big Rock Creek 2014


Report Prepared by the Project Committee
Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter of Trout Unlimited

Sponsorship and Partners

The role of the Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter in this project was to serve as a project sponsor and leader. The chapter does not have the physical or financial resources to undertake a project of this magnitude alone; it is necessary to collaborate with other organizations for volunteer labor and financial assistance. The Nohr chapter, as always after any major project, is indebted and grateful for the financial and physical efforts it has received through the year. We also look forward to continuing these joint ventures in our ongoing habitat improvement efforts.

The partners for the 2014 Big Rock Habitat Improvement Project are as follows:
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Elliot Donnelley Chapter TU
Madison Fishing Expo
Friends of Wis Trout
Southern WI Chapter TU
Lee Wulff Chapter TU
Jim and Rose Sime
Dave Roh Excavating

A small back water area created below a cattle crossing that was installed as part of the project

The Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter of Trout Unlimited undertake habitat improvement projects as a part of its mission “to conserve, protect, and enhance the cold water streams of Southwest Wisconsin”. In 2003 the Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter approved a plan to improve the habitat of the Blue River and its tributaries.

Because of the importance of the Blue River and its tributaries as cold-water resources in a matrix of lands with unusually great potential for conservation, the Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter has focused on habitat restoration along these streams. This report addresses our work on Big Rock creek conducted in 2013 and 2014 on the reach downstream of the Irish Hollow Road bridge, on lands owned by Robert Imhoff, the David Laufenberg family and Jim and Rose Sime.

Stream conditions before the project.

Six to eight foot raw vertical banks and a wide shallow stream were common throughout the project length.

Prior to the project, the stream held trout but much of the habitat was in poor condition.

Stream bank damaged by cattle crossing the stream.

A portion of some of the bank spoil that was removed.

Stream and Riparian Improvement Work

In 2013 and 2014, the Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter of Trout Unlimited along with its partners improved stream habitat along approximately 4500 feet of Big Rock Creek, a tributary to the Blue River. Incised stream banks were tapered. Several thousand yards of stream-bank soil were removed from the immediate flood plain. Rip-rap medium were used to armor stream banks and improve habitat. Riffle-pool topography and sinuosity of the stream were improved. Structures added to improve fish habitat included log deflectors, vortex weirs, boulder retards, cross logs and root wads. In addition, several backwater areas were created or enhanced to benefit turtles, amphibians, and forage fish. Several cattle crossings and one equipment crossing were also installed. Many invasive Black Locust trees were also removed from the project site and utilized for instream structure as log deflectors, cross logs and root wads. Most of the project site is pastured for cattle so it was seeded with an appropriate cold season pasture mix. Getting to the lower site was limited to an old steep logging road that had to be improved to allow heavy equipment to access the site. Even with the improvements it was still somewhat scary to navigate.

Black Locust trees to be used as log deflectors.

The above before picture shows a stream corner with raw eroding banks that was shallow and filled with much sediment. The banks were pulled back and the corner was armored with rip-rap material. A weir was created above this area to help create depth and maintain a deep pool. The after picture below shows a riffle and deep pool with vegetation starting to become established. The shaping and armoring that was done in this area should enable the banks to better withstand high water events and minimize sedimentation in the stream.

The top picture was taken in November 2013. The stream was wide, slow and shallow with a lot of sediment. The lower picture was taken in December 2014. The site is now narrower, deeper and more sinuous due to the installation of rock deflectors, weirs and boulder retards.

Big Rock is one the many beautiful and important tributaries to the Blue River. While important in their own right the work we do on these smaller streams also enhances the quality of the Blue River. Generations of wise landowners have preserved the remarkable landscape of the area. In the present day, strong commitment of
landowners to conservation ensures that the picturesque geology and diverse plant communities of the Blue River watershed will persist into the future. As a result, the Blue River and its tributaries are a remarkable cold-water resource. There are enough miles of trout water of sufficient flow to accommodate many anglers. The streams offer diverse management practices. Some reaches provide the opportunity to catch the trout of a lifetime under trophy preserving catch-release regulations. Other reaches offer trout for a meal under regulations that allow sustainable
harvest. The 2013-2014 Big Rock project has improved habitat and angling opportunity as well as opportunities for enjoying the native plants and animals of Wisconsin. The Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter of Trout Unlimited is proud to have sponsored this project, and is deeply grateful to our many partners listed in this report. A special thanks to the DNR fisheries biologist, Gene Van Dyck, for all of his help in the permitting process. As with every stream conservation program, partnerships among landowners, businesses, anglers, county, state and federal
government officials, and the state and national TU organizations are essential for the success of the Blue River Habitat Improvement projects.