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.

Trout Scapes gets mention for restoring the Musconetcong River

Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC is working in the Musconetcong watershed in northwest, New Jersey.  The “Musky” as it is locally referred to is the NJ Highlands region’s longest trout river at 42 miles from its headwaters at Lake Hopatcong southwest to the Delaware River where it supplies millions of PA and NJ residents with drinking water downstream.

A blog post from our friends at Trout Unlimited

TU Business Spotlight: Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC

Like any great company, Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC is about great people. Brian Cowden is one of those great people. Brian comes to Trout Scapes after being the V.P. of Sales & Marketing for a Montana based river restoration firm.  Prior to that role, Brian worked at Trout Unlimited where he was on Eastern Conservation Staff for seven years as the Musconetcong Home Rivers Initiative Coordinator, working to restore and protect a major Wild & Scenic tributary to the Delaware River.  That work included restoring degraded river channels and banks on the mainstem and tributaries, removing obsolete dams, and working on critical lands protection for the “Musky” River in northwestern New Jersey.

But Brian isn’t the only A Team player at Trout Scapes. Lance Bigelow received a B.S. in Agronomy-Plant Protection Option from Montana State University, Bozeman.  He has more than twenty years of extensive knowledge dealing with both riparian and upland environments.  During this time period, he has been involved with projects in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Virginia, California, New York, Washington, and New Mexico.  Lance specializes in the successful enhancement of rivers and streams by manipulating the natural streambed and incorporating restoration techniques and habitat enhancements that consistently improve the riparian ecosystem while also improving recreational opportunities.

The third principal in this great company is Eric Werhand. Eric received his Fish and Wildlife Management degree from Montana State University in 2003.  Within the past 12 years in the environmental consulting field he has participated in all phases of stream restoration, fishery enhancement, and pond construction projects.  This experience has led to wide-ranging knowledge of project design, site surveying, permit acquisition, project budgeting, construction oversight, and site reclamation.  These projects have encompassed a diversity of habitats from the freestone rivers of the Intermountain West to native Brook Trout rivers along the East Coast.

Paired with a team of first-class equipment operators, Trout Scapes can do magic between the high water lines on any body of water.  Their in-stream restoration improves sediment transportation and increases aquatic habitat for the benefit of all aquatic species.  Pools are deepened to connect to groundwater, providing thermal relief and protection from predators.  Riffles are created and enhanced to increase and diversify macro-invertebrate populations as well as to create spawning habitat.  Woody debris and large boulders are added for habitat diversity to create prime lies for trout.  Banks are restored as necessary, and they work closely with clients to plant native vegetation to further provide shade and cover while the roots help hold banks stable.  Of utmost importance, they reconnect the river to its floodplain wherever possible.  But it’s not just about the technical aspects, it’s about something deeper.

It’s all about passion.  Passion is what drives Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC in everything they do.  Whether restoring or enhancing a trout river or designing and building a pond, passion drives their thinking. The passion shines through on every project for Trout Scapes. It isn’t just a job, it’s a mission. And it’s a mission that dovetails perfectly with the mission of Trout Unlimited. That’s why we’re proud to have Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC as a TU Business member.

Trout Scapes River Restoration, LLC

Brian Cowden
Bozeman, MT 59715

(201) 230-3383  
[email protected]

New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife hires Trout Scapes for Capoolong Creek Project

Trout Scapes is proud to announce that the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife has hired our firm to restore a badly eroded bank that has a popular walking trail along Capoolong Creek at the Capoolong Creek Wildlife Management Area in Pittstown, in Hunterdon County.  This stream is a wild brown trout stream that is popular with anglers as well as hikers and dog walkers using the access trail along the stream.

(above: a hiker uses the walking trail along the badly eroded bank)

Loss of this hiking trail to further bank erosion would mean a total loss of access into this popular Wildlife Management Area as the existing 15′ right of way abuts a private property.  Also, the bank’s erosion has added tons of sediment into the pool below as well as throughout the reach immediately downstream.  Restoration efforts will include soil bioengineering of the bank, in-stream restoration to include pool and riffle restoration for trout habitat, and native willows and riparian seed mix planted during construction which is slated for summer 2017.  Stay tuned for progress on this and many other Trout Scapes projects coming this year…..

Trout Scapes achieves Technical Service Provider status

The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), a part of the US Agriculture Department charged with conservation funds from the Farm Bill, has recognized Eric Werhand from Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC as a certified Technical Service Provider (TSP).  Trout Scapes can work with clients in many states to perform survey and design services for in-stream restoration with a large portion of our fees being refunded to our customers that are funding their restoration projects with Farm Bill funding programs such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) and other NRCS funded programs.  These same programs also  provide significant and often complete funding for in-stream restoration projects.  Contact Trout Scapes for more information if you are considering a Farm Bill program to help fund your project.  Technical Service Provider Certification TSP-16-21605.

Please support these organizations!

Trout Scapes supports several worthwhile organizations through a variety of means, and we strongly encourage our friends and clients to consider these worthy causes.  They are (alphabetically):

Casting For Recovery

Friends of the Missouri Breaks


Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Trout Unlimited

Warriors & Quiet Waters

Raritan Headwaters Association



And……..we’re off to the races!

Having recently launched as a new river restoration and pond building firm with decades of experience between our team members,  we have quickly become busy with new projects across the country.  Our river channel restoration projects are not only focused on creating and enhancing trout habitat, but are aimed at building resiliency into those rivers and streams to face the ever increasing climate changes that are leading to heavier rain events.  Those high water events are tearing up stream banks and incising the channel, disconnecting the streams and rivers from their floodplains and further degrading aquatic habitat.  By reconnecting the floodplain and moving the channel’s energy off the banks while restoring those eroding banks, our projects are improving the ecological function of the entire riparian corridor.  We also enjoy the design and construction of recirculating pond systems and the associated fish habitat they bring to our clients.

Here are some of our new projects in various phases of planning up to and including construction:  1) private 1 acre recirculating pond in New Mexico under construction, 2) bank stabilization and in-stream restoration on the North Branch Raritan River in New Jersey, 3) bank stabilization and in-stream restoration on Capoolong Creek, also in New Jersey, 3) in-stream restoration of a one mile section of trout stream in Loudoun County, Virginia, 4) in-stream restoration and bank stabilization to 1/3 mile of the Saddle River, in Saddle River, NJ 5) two new ponds in/near Bozeman, Montana, 6) 2/3 mile of the Wild & Scenic Musconetcong (Musky) River for in-stream restoration, 7)  design, permitting and construction of a private pond in Somerset County, New Jersey, 8) removal of the Burnt Mills remnant dam on the Lamington River in NJ along with 2/3 mile of in-stream restoration, vernal pool creation and floodplain reconnection, and many other projects still in the early planning stages for 2018 and beyond.

(private one acre pond under construction currently in NM)




Welcome to Trout Scapes!

Trout Scapes was formed in 2016 to focus on our primary passion, river channel restoration and pond creation for trout and and other fish species requiring a healthy, coldwater aquatic habitat.  Our clients include private landowners, fishing clubs, town, state, county, and federal landowners, as well as conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and local watershed groups, all of whom are interested in restoration of our rivers and streams in an effort to improve aquatic habitat, restore natural riverine functions, and increase biodiversity in degraded aquatic and riparian habitats.  Our methods of bed manipulation are time tested to restore proper sediment flow, and to add dissolved oxygen, spawning habitat, deep thermal pools, and insect habitat.

While our firm is new, our ties are deep.  Brian, Eric and Lance have been working together to restore streams and rivers for the last eight years and have now teamed together to bring you Trout Scapes.  Our excavator operators have worked with us for many years and bring great experience to our designs during the construction phase of your restoration/enhancement projects.