Middle Fork Project 3
Log structures built within the stream channel will slow the flow of water, capture sediment, and create riffles and pools to improve aquatic life and fish habitat.
Middle Fork West Fork Gallatin River, below Lake Levinsky
Background: The Middle Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River (Middle Fork) is one of six tributaries of the Gallatin River that does not meet state water quality standards. Resource concerns include erosion, vegetation loss, and pollutants (i.e. sediment, nutrients, and E. Coli) which impact aquatic life, wildlife habitat, recreational uses. Bacteria and e.coli in the water can also pose human health risks. Middle Fork Project 3 is one of five projects identified along the Middle Fork stream corridor to improve water quality, habitat conditions, and build climate change resiliency.
Project Description: Project 3 is located on Big Sky Resort property below the dam at Lake Levinsky. When the dam was installed it straightened a section of the stream and disconnected the stream from its floodplain, leading to a lowered water table, reduced water storage capacity, and lack of in-stream habitat.
Working in partnership with Big Sky Resort and Trout Unlimited, the Task Force utilized low-tech restoration techniques, relying on human labor and natural materials to accelerate recovery of the degraded stream channel. The collaborative effort is one of the core principles of the ForeverProject, Big Sky Resort’s long-term roadmap for sustainability.
The project brought together a diverse group of partners to improve in-stream conditions and build climate change resiliency. Taking cues from nature, we installed artificial beaver dams and log structures to help reconnect the stream to its floodplain, slow the flow of water, and increase water storage.
Big Sky Resort provided an in-kind donation of labor and Moonlight Community Foundation provided volunteer support. Trout Unlimited led staff and volunteers to build the restoration structures using willow branches sourced onsite and woody debris from a nearby Big Sky Community Organization trail project. Students from a Montana State University stream-restoration class helped collect monitoring data.
The project is the first low-tech, processed-based restoration project completed in the Upper Gallatin Watershed and the first step toward removing the Middle Fork from the state’s list of impaired waters.
- 420 feet of stream miles improved
- 1 acre of wetland/riparian habitat made more resilient
- 4 beaver dam analog structures installed
- 5 Post assisted log structures installed
- 2 educational/interpretive signs (coming soon!)
- 21 volunteer hours
Thank you to our incredible donors
The work we do would be impossible without your support.
The Montana Watershed Coordination Council’s Watershed Fund Grant is made possible via funding from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.