East Fork family restores riverbanks
SULA — Even from a distance, it’s easy to spot that something isn’t quite right on this stretch of the East Fork of the Bitterroot.
Upstream, old-growth cottonwoods grace the riverbanks. Downstream is a large grove of willows. But this 250-foot middle stretch holds no mature trees. Its banks instead are lined with heaps of rocks, put there decades ago in the hopes of keeping the East Fork in place.
“It was channelized by the DNRC (Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation) back when people thought that was a good idea,” says Heather Barber, executive director of the nonprofit Bitter Root Water Forum. “It was disconnected from its flood plain, making it a lot harder for vegetation to exist.”