Blue River Project 2006


The Nohr Chapter of Trout Unlimited annually undertakes a stream habitat improvement project as an essential part of its mission “to conserve, protect, and enhance the cold water streams of Southwestern Wisconsin.” In 2003 the project committee met and proposed a three-year habitat improvement project on the Blue River. We believed we would have a more significant impact on improving the stream with a multi-year effort. The chapter’s board of directors approved this proposal in the fall of 2003. The 2006 project completed in September was the third year in this effort. Previous projects having been successfully completed in 2004 and 2005 on the headwaters of this stream. The chapter’s project committee recently agreed it was important to continue to focus our efforts on habitat improvement work on the Blue River and its watershed.

Sponsorship and partners
The Nohr Chapter’s role in this project is to serve as a project sponsor and the project leader. Because the chapter does not have the physical or financial resources to effectively undertake project activities alone, it is necessary to reach out to other organizations for volunteer labor and financial assistance. We are indebted and grateful for the financial and physical support we have received from our partners over the last several years. We look forward to continuing these partnerships in our ongoing habitat improvement efforts. The partners for the Blue River 2006 project are:

  • The Don Adametz Family
  • The Elliott Donnelley Chapter TU
  • The Blackhawk Chapter TU
  • Green Bay Chapter TU
  • The Oak Brook Chapter TU
  • The Lee Wulff Chapter TU
  • National TU Embrace-A- Stream
  • Wisconsin State Council TU
  • Wisconsin DNR
  • Grant County Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Grant County Land & Water Conservation Department
  • Besadny Foundation
  • Madison Fishing Expo
  • Dave Roh Excavating
  • Riverside Sawmill
  • Southwest Chapter of Pheasants Forever
  • Dubuque Fly Fishers

Our partnership with the Wisconsin DNR and the help we have received from our area fisheries manager, Gene VanDyck, has significantly eased the permitting process. Stream restoration work is labor intensive and expensive. The partners listed above provided over 300 hours of volunteer labor and/or financial support for contracted machine work and required materials necessary to move the project to completion.

Project Activities
The first project activity requiring volunteer help was a lunker building workday. In early summer we had a number of chapter members and some non -member volunteers meet on-site to build 21 lunker structures. After half a day the work was done and we had an enjoyable lunch prepared by chapter members. The brushing required in this years project was deemed too extensive for the number of work days that would have been required, so the trees and brush were removed by our contractor. This year for the first time we held a post-project celebration. This was held streamside on the 2006 project site. Watershed landowners, local community members, governmental agency employees, and chapter members were invited to attend. Approximately 125 people enjoyed horse-drawn wagon rides through the valley to the site, where a wonderful lunch was served. Stream tours were provided to explain our project work. Joe Schmelz, Iowa County NRCS technician, gave a short presentation to explain the importance of and the reason for the habitat work we are undertaking. TU Dare coordinator Jeff Hastings also gave a short talk on the TU Dare initiative and congratulated our chapter on its award from TU National as top chapter in the nation for 2006.

Joe Schmelz giving his presentation at the Blue River Celebration

Stream and Reparian Improvement Work
The foremost objective of the Nohr Chapter is to complete projects that reflect and exceed the best known practices in stream improvement work. We endeavor to produce outcomes that reflect the highest standards of technical expertise and aesthetic quality. The techniques used to achieve these outcomes may vary on different stream segments.

The targeted stream segment of this project was 4200 feet on the Don Adametz property in Grant County. The Wisconsin DNR holds a public fishing easement on this segment. The project was almost evenly divided with the upstream portion flowing through moderately grazed pasture and the downstream portion flowing next to cropland. The lower section was completely canopied by boxelder trees from the stream to the crop field.

In some places this was almost 100 feet in width. Most of this stream segment was straight, wide and shallow.

Because of the scope of the tree canopy we employed the contractor to remove the trees and brush. This was done with heavy equipment in February of 2006. Most of the trees and brush were burned or buried.

The landowner has agreed to allow Pheasants Forever to plant and maintain this section into native grasses and forbs. The opposite side of this stream section is a steep hillside that is for the most part covered with Oak and Maple trees. Work on this side of the stream consisted mainly of tapering 7 to 8-foot high vertical banks where needed. Our goal in this section was to create more sinuosity, narrow the sections that were too wide, armor with rip-rap areas susceptible to erosion, and create more overhead cover. This was accomplished by installing vortex weirs to create more depth, lunker structures, and root wads. Several deflectors were used in this section to create in-stream meanders. There is now more depth as well as more exposed cobble and gravel for spawning habitat and a more appropriate riffle-pool-run sequence.

Before Picture in Downstream Crop Field Section
After Picture Same Section
Before Picture of 7-8 ft. high vertical banks with tree canopy removed
After picture of same section –banks tapered & lunkers installed

In the upstream section we installed two equipment crossings in places that were wide and eroded that the landowner used to access the crop section. We also installed three cattle crossings where cattle had caused severe bank erosion. For the most part, the techniques we used in the downstream segment were also used in the pasture section. The main difference was that we used more lunker structures is this stream segment, and a pasture mix was used for seeding. Nineteen structures were place throughout the entire project. Two temperature loggers were installed in the upper and lower sections after the work was concluded to help us to continue to gather information on the stream. For the past three years we have collected temperature data from a series of temperature loggers installed along many miles of Blue River, including above and below the conclusion of this year’s project. This information is available on our website at

Before Picture of banks damaged by cattle & by the stream cutting into bank
After Picture –bank tapered & armored & cattle crossing installed

The Blue is one of the most significant and appealing streams of Southwest Wisconsin. The scenery is spectacular and the stream itself is large enough to attract and accommodate a considerable number of anglers. It is one of those streams that fisherman will travel a couple hundred miles to fish. This project and future projects will enhance the fishery and increase its appeal. The Nohr Chapter is proud to have sponsored this project, and is deeply indebted to our partners who have donated volunteer services and funds to that effort. We could not have done it without that help.

Picture of lower stream section after completion
Picture of Upper stream section after completion with a series of lunkers