Now is the perfect time to get involved with protecting our freshwater resources with volunteer events, free training and education classes and family-friendly activities throughout the year!
While land development, sewer overflows and poor agricultural practices have negative effects on the overall watershed, the ecosystems of coldwater streams can face unique threats. Coldwater tributaries can be damaged by blocked upstream passages, the loss of natural areas, removal of shade from streambanks and a reduction of instream habitat, all of which increase the water’s temperature, acidity, sediment and bacteria levels.
The Clinton River Watershed provides many angling opportunities for coldwater fish, including native brook trout. Since 2005, the CRCCP’s goal is to enhance, restore and create instream and streamside trout habitat.
Today, CRCCP volunteers continue their work to improve our local fishery resources with multiple large woody debris and trash clean-ups as well as fishing access and streambank habitat-related projects taking place. These projects will have positive effects on our watershed for many years to come. To learn more about fishing on the Clinton River Watershed click here!
A tributary is a freshwater stream that feeds into another river, rather than ending in a lake, pond or ocean. A tributary can be the size of the smallest of headwater streams to a smaller river that eventually feeds into the larger or parent river.
Tributaries form the headwaters (the source) of a river, and each tributary drains a different watershed, carrying runoff and snowmelt from that area. A coldwater tributary is typically cooler and faster flowing than the downstream waters of a larger, wider river.
Tributaries are a fundamental part of a watershed and provide important ecological functions such as spawning, rearing and refuge habitats for wildlife, particularly coldwater fish. Warm water temperatures are a known factor to limiting the survival and distribution of salmon, trout and charr.
The presence of coldwater creeks and streams feeding into warm, downstream waters creates cold-water patches that provide critical, thermal sanctuaries for coldwater fish and sustain wild populations that would otherwise be unable to survive through the dry summer months.
The temperature in a coldwater tributary is protected by the shade of matured trees and dense vegetation along the streambank, and seasonal streams also contribute important ecological functions even when dry. This can occur when a colder, sub-surface flow discharges from "dry" tributary channels into warm, downstream perennial streams and rivers that create cold-water patches.
During the 1950’s, the Headwaters of the North Branch were once regularly stocked with Brook Trout, but the management was terminated likely due to inaccessibility, the small stream size and extensive private property. However, self-sustaining populations of the Native Brook Trout have been rediscovered in what was once known as the “up north country” to local residents.
Where the North Branch begins in Almont and Bruce Township, portions of the river are much smaller and offer just the right conditions for sensitive Brook Trout to survive. The wetlands, groundwater and heavily shaded banks keep the water temperatures in the low 60’s, and the glacial material throughout the landscape provides the river with a gravel and cobble bottom. These conditions led the State to classify the North Branch and its tributaries above 32 Mile Road as designated coldwater trout streams.
The CRWC and Michigan DNR Fisheries are now monitoring the water quality, stream habitat conditions and the Brook Trout populations within the headwaters of the North Branch. By collecting new data, the CRWC is hoping to learn more about the decline of the Brook Trout in other areas of the watershed including Gallagher Creek, a tributary of Paint Creek. The Headwaters of Gallagher Creek are located in Oakland Charter Township and once supported healthy populations of Brook Trout.
To have high-quality streams that are still home to a wild-reproducing native trout population, the Headwaters of the North Branch stand as testament to what can be achieved when we protect our freshwater resources and natural environment.
The CRWC’s Road-Stream Crossing Program focuses on habitat fragmentation and fish passage barriers created by failing infrastructure, roads, dams, culverts and pipes. To learn more about our local coldwater tributaries, the unique challenges they face and why they are important to our native brook trout, visit our Road-Stream Crossing Program’s page.