Roots Against Erosion at Skalkaho Bend Park
Skalkaho Bend Park along the Mainstem of the Bitterroot River in Hamilton
Establish a corridor of native riparian vegetation to secure the cutbank of the Bitterroot River to mitigate its erosion of park land as it quickly migrates East.
The Bitterroot is one of the most dynamic rivers in Montana and is always re-shaping its path as it moves back and forth across the landscape. This natural process is common in river beds made of soft soil or moveable stones, where flowing water easily shifts the river’s course over time. Historically, deep-rooted shrubs and trees grew along this river section. Today, without strong roots from these native plants, the land along the river is fragile and easily washes away.
Skalkaho Bend Park is losing 1 acre of land to this rapid erosion every five years. Healthy riparian habitats around rivers can help lessen this negative impact.
Form thick webs of roots that hold land together, reducing erosion
Improve water quality by filtering pollutants
Create shade to keep waters cool for thriving native fish and other aquatic life
Help refill our underground water supply
Provide important habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife
We established a 'swale', or depression in the land, approximately 50-200 feet away from the River's edge. The swale helps plants access water.
Water Forum volunteers helped plant 11,000 willow shoots and other trees and shrubs in the 'swale' along the River bend in 2021.
Strategically installed fences to protect growing plants from foot traffic and wildlife browse.
If the river eventually reaches the planting area, strong roots will help absorb the forces of flowing water, slowing the erosion of this fragile bank. With the web of roots these plants create, visitors like you can continue to enjoy riverside trails at Skalkaho Bend.
2019 - Present
City of Hamilton, Department of Environmental Quality, Bitter Root Land Trust, Bitterroot Audubon
River movement over the last 25 years and projections for the future (see blue lines)
Eroding bank at Skalkaho Bend Park
Descriptive design map from Geum Environmental Consulting.