Just a few miles northwest of Helena, Prickly Pear Land Trust owns and manages the 358 acre Sevenmile Creek Project Area. Acquired in 2016 along with Tenmile Creek Park as part of the Peaks to Creeks initiative, Sevenmile is a rare, undeveloped valley property, consisting of grasslands, rolling hills, and water. Bisecting the narrow property is over two miles of Sevenmile Creek, a major tributary of the Lake Helena Watershed. Historically used for agricultural purposes, Prickly Pear Land Trust is working with a host of public and private partners to reestablish the project area as a functioning floodplain. To date, PPLT has restored 75% of the degraded reaches of Sevenmile Creek, created over one-and-a-half acres of new wetlands and ponds, and is working towards completely returning the riparian area and creek corridor to a healthier, historical condition by 2020. By rebuilding the creek, our largest restoration project to date, native wildlife, vegetation, and fisheries may expand and thrive, while the property relieves flooding downstream and prevents sediments from entering Helena’s water.
February 2016: The 350 acre property is acquired in partnership with Fort Harrison
Summer 2016: Initial restoration design alternatives completed, divides property into 4 distinct stream reaches
Fall 2017: Work is completed on the restoration of upstream reaches 1 and 2
Spring 2018: One-and-a-half acres of wetlands are built, recreating the creek’s historic conditions
Summer 2018: A 2600’ new channel is constructed in reach 3, moved from an incised channel and reconnecting the creek to its historic floodplain (see photo to the right)
2019: Permitting and design are completed for reach 4, the final segment
2020: Construction of the new channel in reach 4 is complete
2020 and beyond: The riparian area remains protected and vegetation continues to be established.
While PPLT and all of our partners are working diligently to reestablish native grassland and reconnect Sevenmile creek to its floodplain, wildlife is responding and helping us along. There has been a surprising amount of bird species, more than 120, documented on our Sevenmile Creek property. Migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors are all taking advantage of the new opportunities along the creek as well as the fresh ponds and wetlands. The reappearance of certain bird species over the years of restoration work has been a welcome ecological indicator. But Sevenmile is not just “for the birds.” There has been sign and sighting of mule deer, pronghorn, and black bear. There’s even been one eager beaver attempting to redirect the stream using her own methods. With the removal of barriers, the fishery will likely show early signs of improvement. Baseline macroinvertebrate sampling already shows impressive colonization in the completely rebuilt section of creek. With all the support, from caddisfly to kestrel, we’re excited to see what the place looks like in ten years.
To find updated feather facts about the site, check out Sevenmile Creek’s eBird site, where Last Chance Audubon’s Shane Sater regularly updates bird survey data, photos, stories and audio.
Reminder: Restoration work is ongoing at Sevenmile Creek property, so the site will remain closed to the general public.
The Sevenmile Creek Restoration Project was made possible only through the original “Peaks to Creeks” land deal, which resulted in the perpetual protection of both the Sevenmile Creek and Tenmile Creek properties. For purchasing these critical 558 acres of community ground, we thank you!
Army Compatible Use Buffer program
The Conservation Fund
Lewis and Clark County Open Space Bond program
Montana Aquatic Resources Services (MARS)
Montana Trout Foundation
Trout Unlimited: Pat Barnes chapter
Private donors and members of PPLT
As a damaged portion of Sevenmile Creek was closed Thursday, wildlife officials were on hand to electroshock and relocate the fish that became trapped there.
Prickly Pear Land Trust and its community partners celebrated a big milestone as they completed the next step in their project to restore parts of Sevenmile Creek.
PPLT has begun a project that aims to restore the area, which stretches northwest from the intersection of Birdseye Road and Head Lane.
Want more info? Want to learn about volunteer opportunities or how to partner with PPLT? Contact Project Manager, Nate Kopp, at [email protected] or give us a call at (406)442-0490