Roots Against Erosion  at Skalkaho Bend Park

Location

Skalkaho Bend Park along the Mainstem of the Bitterroot River in Hamilton

Goals

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.

Reasoning

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 control lessen this negative impact.

Riverside plants:​

  • 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

Project Description

  • 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.

Timeline

2019 - Present

Partners

City of Hamilton, Department of Environmental Quality, Bitter Root Land Trust, Bitterroot Audubon

Cost

$225,000

RiverbankAerial.Poster.1Jul2020 JPG lo-r

River movement over the last 25 years and projections for the future (see blue lines)

IMG_6399.JPG

Eroding bank at Skalkaho Bend Park

Descriptive design map from Geum Environmental Consulting.