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Left Hand Creek Restoration Project

Background

On September 12th, heavy rains caused flooding along Left Hand Creek.  The creek, which flows through center of our farm reached it’s peak in the early morning hours of September 13th, at levels we never excepted or thought possible.  The flooding forever changed the geography of the creek and caused damage to vegetation, trees, and some of the farm infrastructure.  As stewards of the land, we are dedicated to restoring the creek habitat and working with nature to create something even more beautiful and robust than before.  This page documents some of the steps we’ve taken and the lessons we’ve learned in the process.

Tree Evaluation 

Thinking about creek ecosystems, it’s often the giant cottonwoods and willows that come to mind first.  Numerous large trees were lost during the flooding, as banks eroded and trees toppled into the creek.  After the flood waters receded, our first step was to evaluate the remaining trees in terms of health and safety.  We contacted our friends at 3D Tree Care and Doug came out to take a look.  Luckily the trees that did survive the flood were in pretty good shape.  There were a few trees that had root zones eroded:

Doug thought that there was enough roots still buried and safe that the trees would survive.  For the tree on the left, where the river bank eroded, the roots would need to be eventually cut.  For the tree on the right, it would be easy enough to take some of the deposited silt and sand from the flood area and re-cover the roots.  We mixed up a special brew of biological inoculants and organic nutrients that we use in the fields and treated the exposed root zone before burying.

Flood Zone Evaluation

The event area in the back of the farm, where we host farm dinners and youth summer classes, was the area where we saw the most flooding.  When the waters receded we were left with new rock, sand, and silt deposits, often more than a foot deep.  For advice on restoring the vegetation in this area we contacted Darren Klotz from Rocky Mountain Bio Products, a friend of the farm who has years of experience in habitat restoration.  Darren shared our vision of being able to use the flood as an opportunity to rebuild the creek habitat even better than it was before.  Eventually we plan on planting a variety of native grasses, flowers, and berries, but given the fact that it is already so late in the season, we agreed that the immediate need was for a winter cover crop, to start rebuilding the biological life and structure of the soil.

The cover crop that we are going to use is an organic cold season mix from Pawnee Butte Seeds that contains winter rye, Austrian field peas, and harry vetch.  In the spring this cover crop will be mowed and tilled into the soil and the native grasses planted on top.

This week we are busy moving sand deposits around and grading the event area in preparation for this planting.

Planting is scheduled for Sunday, September 29th from 10am-2pm.  Families that want to participate in the planting are welcome to volunteer.  Stop by Sunday between 10-2 and check in at the farmstand. 

Creek Restoration

Left Hand Creek is still flowing high and it may be a couple more weeks before we can see exactly what the creek’s new path will look like, and what additional work will need to be done to clean up the creek itself.  There are some debris piles we will start removing this weekend.

 

 
 

 

 

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