Norwalk River Restoration

Our nearly 1/2 mile restoration of the Norwalk River in Wilton, CT is now complete. This is our second half mile project on this river, our first taking place in 2019 at the town’s Schenck’s Island Park section in downtown Wilton. Our clients for both projects as well as for the recent (July ’23) Comstock Brook small dam removal project for native brook trout passage is the Mianus chapter of Trout Unlimited. Comstock Brook is a tributary to the Norwalk River, and is also in Wilton.

With the removal of a downstream dam (Dana dam) being done this summer, diadromous fish including sea lamprey can now reach their upstream spawning grounds. Our project focused on the wild brown trout habitat needs as well as spawning habitat for both trout and sea lamprey. The CT DEEP diadromous fisheries biologists have plans to release pre-spawn sea lamprey above the Dana dam site once the dam is out to help jump start the repopulation of the lampreys, and this habitat restoration will be key to that future successful reintroduction.

This project is located in the floodway, so permitting included Inland Wetlands, US Army Corps, and CT DEEP oversight and approvals before work could commence in August ’23. The above photo shows some of the spawning sites that will be used by both brown trout and sea lamprey which spawn at different times of the year. Mianus TU and staff will be monitoring this restoration for redds in season for both fish species anticipated to use this reach for spawning.

Large woody “debris” was added to multiple sites along the 16 Sites where our restoration efforts were focused. Wood adds excellent fish habitat and provides roughness in the channel, slowing flood waters and deflecting it from the banks. Above is one of the maple trees used for its root wad with the stem of the tree buried in the banks and the root wad protruding into the river as seen below.

The project included creation and enhancement of adult and juvenile habitat, spawning habitat, increased macro invertebrate habitat in the form of riffle enhancement and creation, and wetlands fringe habitat where practical. Care was taken to diversify our multiple structures and include pocket water creation, deep pool enhancement, as well as the other habitat types previously mentioned above. Below, we also added three thermal pools in Mayapple Brook, a tributary that enters this river near the top of our project site to offer summer refuge from thermal temperature issues often facing Eastern trout rivers.

Some more photos of our work…..

Lopatcong Creek Floodplain, Riparian and Habitat Restoration Project

Trout Scapes River Restoration LLC was hired by Trout Unlimited to restore a one and a half mile reach of Lopatcong Creek, New Jersey’s best limestone spring trout fishery in three towns on the lower Creek where past land use practices led to badly eroded banks and degraded in-stream habitat. Over time, the stream continued to down cut and become less connected to the otherwise intact floodplain in this 1.5 mile section above and below route 22 in Warren County. Lopatcong Creek has native brook trout, wild brown trout, and state stocked rainbow trout in this section of the Creek. TSRR was charged with performing the survey and design, working with Rippled Waters Engineering LLC to perform flow modeling and to make NJDEP Flood Hazard permit application, applying for the NJDEP Land Use permit as well as obtaining a county soil conservation district permit prior to work commencing in Summer 2021.

Below: lower Lock Street reach pre restoration by the old Ingersoll Rand well house on Lopatcong Creek. Note vertical banks and lack of native vegetation

Below: that same stretch post restoration and planted.

This project involved re-sloping banks to 3:1 and hauling off the dirt to upland disposal sites above the floodplain which were later planted. In-stream habitat for trout and cyprinids was constructed, and Trout Unlimited volunteers came out to help install coir matting on the newly restored banks and to plant willow and dogwood cuttings as well as balled and burlapped and containerized native trees and shrubs where needed to complete this project once the heavy equipment construction phase was done.

Each of the three nearly contiguous sites had different restoration applications done. On the upper half mile along the Morris Canal, great care had to be taken to protect the old tow path of the historic Morris Canal which runs parallel to the Creek on a preserved property owned by Warren County. Most of our work in that reach was bank restoration and less in-stream habitat enhancement. Along the half mile below Stryker’s Road, more work was needed for in-stream trout habitat, and that work included numerous deep pools, pocket water, spawning riffles, and undercut bank habitat. We also removed massive amounts of woody debris that had been accumulating against the triple concrete culvert that takes the Creek under NJ State Highway 22. Below 22, the half mile of the Creek below the Lock Street bridge saw a combination of in-stream and bank work which made up at least half of the overall effort although it was only 1/3 of the length of the entire project. All native trees and shrubs had been long since cut down for farming right up to the banks, and invasive herbaceous plants like mugwort and reed canary grass had taken over. These are annual plants that die off each late fall, leaving little to no root mass to hold bank soils in place. What was left was “canyon walls” or vertical banks that continuously eroded in each high water event. TSRR used a combination of re-sloping and armoring with native boulders from nearby suppliers.

We look forward to watching this site maturing over time and to identify further needs for restoration downstream of the Lock Street site where the limestone groundwater greatly lowers water temperatures in the Creek for the wild trout living in it. Thank you to Trout Unlimited for putting your project in our hands, we very much enjoyed it.

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.