Trout Brook Restoration

Trout Brook, a Pequest River tributary which ultimately flows into the Delaware River in western New Jersey, received restoration adjacent to this Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) native wildflower meadow that was once a grazing pasture for dairy cows. This working farm now has cattle fenced out of the meadow and stream, and restoration of approximately 1,500′ of the banks and in-stream habitat could commence without further trampling by cows. Trout Scapes performed the survey and design and construction of this project in Warren County on Hope Farm for our client. We also planted hundreds of dormant willow, dogwood, and nine bark cuttings into restored banks and supervised the planting and protective tree tube installation of 200 native trees and shrubs in containers adjacent to the left bank in an area being reforested.

This project was funded by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a part of the US Agriculture Department and the WRP easement ensures that this native wildflower meadow and Trout Brook which flows through it will be in permanent preservation. Wood turtles and wild trout call this stream home. The planting work was completed in November 2020 after in-stream construction was completed in early October.

Culvert Removed for Native Brook Trout in Connecticut

Trout Scapes was recently hired by Steep Rock Association to remove an obsolete culvert across an abandoned road in their Steep Rock Preserve in Washington Depot, CT. The tributary to the Shepaug River is Curtis Brook, and its lower third of this stream had an intact, healthy population of native brook trout. Above the “perched” culvert were no fish of any kind. This culvert was perched over the stream by several feet, making upstream fish passage impossible and disconnecting trout from almost two-thirds of available habitat upstream.

This two day project was completed in late September, 2020, and brook trout have been seen using the new habitat. Time will tell if we got enough rains to bring the brookies back up above the culvert for the first time in at least 75 years, but they have been frequently seen in the lower most pool to date. The project consisted of a 35′ long, 60″ metal culvert being removed in two pieces from the stream, and construction of four plunge/step pools to allow brook trout to rest in deeper pools while shooting upstream as needed in higher water. We also needed to add stepping stones across the top above one pool as this is an active and popular hiking trail that crosses the stream at this location dating back to when the trail was an active road. Like so many of our remaining native brook trout streams, Curtis Brook is a small tributary in size and flow. This culvert removal should significantly help brook trout numbers in this Shepaug River tributary. Trout Scapes hopes to provide fish passage through another problem culvert on the tributary next to Curtis Brook, Kirby Brook with our clients at Steep Rock Association. That project is awaiting final grant funding for either 2021 or 2022.

Trout Scapes and COVID-19

Just a note to let all of our clients and friends know that throughout this pandemic we are all experiencing currently, Trout Scapes has continued to be available for site visits to discuss restoration and enhancement projects of your wetlands. While much of our East Coast work is currently on hold, we resume pond work in Montana once winter releases her hold on the mountains there.

Our construction backlog is very strong, but for now we can only guess when we will have a handle on how projects will move forward once all states are back working under our new “normal”. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions and please stay safe and healthy while we all work through this together.

Brian, Eric and Lance

Burnt Mills Dam Removal on Lamington River

Trout Scapes recently completed the removal of an obsolete dam on the lower Lamington River in central New Jersey. The Lamington is a large tributary of the North Branch Raritan which in turn flows into the Raritan River and then into the Atlantic. This project will eventually benefit native American shad, river herring, American eels, and striped bass as well as smallmouth bass and stocked trout on a public access site owned by Raritan Headwaters Association, a local watershed organization ( ). A dam has existed here or nearby since Colonial times, the original mills for which the initial dam was built were burned down by British soldiers and the grain and finished flour ransacked. The most recent version, built in 1914 for unknown reasons as no mills continued operation at that time, had fallen into bad repair and was actually breached by a series of hurricanes in the late 1950s.

The breach of the dam has caused a new channel to form and that new channel continues to erode the banks, threatening nearby Milnor Road. The removal included removal of the concrete structure, the placing of the river back into its original channel, the protection of the banks along Milnor Road, a lowering of the bank upstream of the dam to allow better floodplain access, and the creation of vernal habitat on WRP (wetland reserve program) lands adjacent to the former dam.

The dam was removed using Farm Bill and US Fish & Wildlife funds among other funding sources, and it benefits several key species of fish and wildlife that call the area home. Plantings are ongoing and will be completed in spring ’20.

Environmental Groups Join To Improve Trout Habitat By Andrew Gorosko, The Newtown Bee (CT) May 18, 2019

Several environmental groups have joined together in planning for a September project along the Pootatuck River intended to improve that stream’s habitat for wild brook trout, with the goal of increasing the native trout population there.

The physical improvement project is planned for the “left bank” of the Pootatuck River, located just upriver of the Pootatuck’s confluence with its tributary, Deep Brook. In riverine terms, the left bank refers to the left bank of the river when looking downriver. Work is planned to improve about 165 linear feet riverbank overall.

The construction is planned for September, a month when the river typically has a low water level, allowing simplified low-water access for the heavy equipment that will temporarily be positioned on the riverbed.

At a recent meeting of the Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC), Michael Jastremski, who is the Housatonic Valley Association’s (HVA) watershed conservation director, described the planned project to IWC members. The Pootatuck Watershed Association (PWA), which is sponsoring the riverbank project, has hired Mr Jastremski as its project manager. The Pootatuck River is in the Housatonic River watershed.

The Candlewood Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a coldwater fisheries conservation group, also is participating in the trout habitat project, as is the Newtown Forest Association.

The project budget is approximately $50,000 in private funds. The Town of Newtown plans to make an in-kind contribution of roughly $2,000 to the project in the form of providing tree trunks with attached root wads, plus some large boulders, and town workers’ labor costs.

Mr Jastremski said May 13 that 10-foot-long tree trunk sections that have the dead tree’s root wad still attached to the trunk will be buried horizontally and perpendicularly along the riverbank, with a small fraction of each tree trunk’s root wad exposed at the riverbank at the river’s high-water level. Boulders also will be placed along the riverbank.

The root wads will provide shelter and protective cover for the native trout that live in the river, with the intent of providing physical conditions conducive to their longevity and eventual reproduction. The riverbank’s geometry also will be improved, with stable shallow slopes created to replace currently unstable vertical riverbank sections.

Also, large boulders will be positioned in excavations on the riverbed to create riverine pools, where trout would gather.

Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC of Bozeman, Mont., has been hired for technical planning and to perform the heavy construction required for the project.

Following the earthmoving aspects of the riverbank project, willow and dogwood trees will be planted alongside the river to improve trout habitat by providing shade to keep the water cool in the summertime.

“The whole idea is to work with the stream to replicate natural conditions” that are beneficial to trout, Mr Jastremski said.

The area where the project will occur is part of a Class 1 Wild Trout Management Area, as designated by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). It is one of nine such areas in Connecticut where trout populations are able to sustain themselves by natural reproduction. The presence of brook trout indicates excellent water quality. Recreational fishing in the area is allowed on a catch-and-release basis.

Mr Jastremski explained that DEEP wants those participating in the trout habitat project to be on the lookout for wood turtles, a protected species that lives in the area

Due to the nature of the planned work, the project requires approvals from DEEP, the state Department of Agriculture for access to the river, and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Joe Hovious is the PWA’s vice president as well as a member of Trout Unlimited’s board of directors.

Mr Hovious said May 14 that after the construction work is done, there will be a need for volunteers to help plant the shade trees along the riverbank. Such tree planting has occurred in the area in the past as part of a long-term effort to improve the trout habitat along the river.

By: Andrew Gorosko, Newtown Bee, Newtown, CT

Trout Scapes restores Wild & Scenic Musconetcong River

Working for the coldwater conservation organization, Trout Unlimited of which Trout Scapes is a TU Business Member, we recently restored a 1/3 mile reach of the Musconetcong (Musky) in northwest New Jersey on state owned land between the towns of Asbury and Bloomsbury.  Most of the water up and downstream is in private hands, but this section is owned by the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife and maintained as public fishing access for trout.

BELOW: pre restoration

BELOW: post restoration

This work was funded by William Penn Foundation, Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, a Trout Unlimited Embrace A Stream (EAS) grant, as well as contributions from 7 NJ based TU chapters.  The project lead is Cole Baldino, TU’s NJ Delaware River Coordinator and TU national staffer working to protect and restore NJ trout tributaries to the Delaware River.  This property had once been leased to fishing clubs, and the clubs were fond of building stone dams to try to create deep pool habitat.  Instead, the dams got “pushed down” by flows and that allowed the water to flow towards the banks, widening the river by as much as 44′ in places.  Point bars adjacent to newly restored pool habitat act to narrow the flows back to normal which for this reach is between 65′ and 72′ in width.  Not only will anglers benefit, but so will paddlers as this is a popular spot with canoes and kayaks.

BELOW: pre restoration

BELOW: post restoration pocket water


Trout Scapes Expands into Connecticut

Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC is pleased to announce that we will be working in Connecticut on two new projects.  Connecticut is home to native brook trout as well as wild brown and rainbow trout in most of its major drainages.  Trout Scapes will be restoring a tributary of the Housatonic River, the Pootatuck River, in Newtown, CT and performing survey and design work on nearly one-half mile of the Norwalk River in Wilton, CT ahead of restoration construction as early as summer ’18.  Both projects are on public lands, and both projects’ clients are watershed and conservation organizations working hard to protect and restore coldwater resources in that state.

ABOVE: Pootatuck River showing exposed banks

The Pootatuck project includes root wads to restore two sections of eroding banks while creating deep pool habitat for summer thermal relief for native brook trout.  Trout Scapes will use soil bioengineering techniques on the banks and bed manipulation in the river bed to restore this section of the river above the Deep Brook tributary.  Work is tentatively slated for summer ’18.

BELOW: the Norwalk River in Wilton, CT showing various man-made legacy impacts

BELOW: Norwalk River showing a remnant dam that still negatively impacts the river in high flows

The Norwalk River’s Schenck’s Island section in downtown Wilton, CT is already popular with anglers, dog walkers, bird watchers, and other visitors.  A portion of this section of the river is owned by a local land trust with the town owning the rest of this stretch of .45 miles.  This river is both a trout stocked and wild brown trout river, and it suffers in locations from man’s impacts including stormwater runoff, building too closely and within the floodplain, channelization, obsolete dams, and tree and shrub removal to list a few.  Restoration of this section will showcase the river in the town once a formal design has been created and permits have been approved, hopefully by summer ’18.

Trout Scapes Restores Badly Eroded Bank for NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife

TSRR was invited to bid on and ultimately won the restoration of a badly eroded bank along the Capoolong Creek, a wild trout stream in Hunterdon County, NJ by the Division of Fish & Wildlife who own this property.  The old railroad bed perched above the creek is a popular hiking trail onto state lands for hunters, anglers, hikers, dog walkers, and horseback riders, and the trail was being eroded away with no place to relocate it as it abuts a private property and not other state lands.

BELOW: Eroded bank pre restoration

The project consisted of arresting future erosion by refocusing the river’s energy away from the bank in high water, restore some of the lost material to the bank, plant it with native trees, shrubs and seed mix, and allow the state to do additional work to restore the trail itself now that it will no longer erode into the stream below.  The slope of the eroded bank was covered in invasive Japanese stiltgrass which dies off in winter and does not have a root system to hold soils in place.

The river’s energy was redirected off the right bank (looking downstream) and large boulder barbs were buried under what appears as a normal bank that will push the high flows off the right bank and into the deep pool, scouring the pool and lessening energy that could damage the bank further.  During the permitting process, a state threatened salamander species was found to be on site, and TSRR worked with Division biologists to not only keep them out of harm’s way during the construction phase of the restoration, but we also incorporated some of their habitat needs into our final design.

Wild brown trout began moving into the newly restored pool as heavy equipment was leaving the site, and we watched as one of the trout rise consistently upstream in a pool above our work, seemingly oblivious to having an excavator working 50 yards downstream.

BELOW: keying in a boulder weir


BELOW: a tough planting location!


Below: the finished product minus seed sprouting….

The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife will monitor this species of salamander throughout the reach sampled for this project to see if numbers increase and to see if the restored bank is now good habitat for them as the exposed banks had not been previously.

American shad documented in the Musconetcong River after 300 years

The three of us had a small part to play in these restoration projects while in our former roles and it is great to know that shad and striped bass are back in a watershed they haven’t had access to in nearly 300 years due to old mill dams.  This is exciting news and demonstrates clearly the positive impacts of removing obsolete dams on our rivers and streams.