The Gooseberry Fish Passage Project is one of the first steps in an ongoing effort to improve the Sage Creek watershed and increase the range and population of Colorado River cutthroat trout (CRCT) as well as aquatic and riparian habitat within the Greater Little Mountain area.
Gooseberry Creek is a small tributary and cannot support a large population of CRCT without connectivity to Trout Creek and Sage Creek. Due to human activities and other factors within the drainage, Gooseberry Creek no longer had a population of CRCT below a man-made Gabion barrier, which was used to prevent an enormous head-cut from continuing upstream to where the CRCT were.
In summer 2012, Trout Unlimited (TU), the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, the National Fish and Wildlife Fund, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and the Bureau of Land Management enhanced the CRCT fishery and addressed fish passage issues on Gooseberry Creek within the Upper Sage Creek drainage by replacing a completely plugged culvert on County Road 34 with a bottomless arched culvert.
In summer 2013, two fish ladders were constructed on Gooseberry Creek, one inside a previously built enclosure to protect the Gabion and the other above County Road 34. Both fish ladder locations had drops in excess of six feet from the top, too high for fish to pass. To remedy this, a series of small step pools approximately one-half to one foot in height was constructed with logs and rocks. With passage provided through the two sites, approximately one and a half miles of prime spawning and rearing habitat in Gooseberry Creek was made available for the CRCT and other native fish, ensuring population sustainability. In addition, existing head-cuts were stabilized to protect riparian areas and improve water quality by reducing sedimentation in the stream.
The Muley Fanatics, TU, WGFD and the landowner also teamed up to protect the upper stream enhancement reach. The Muley Fanatics provided manpower and enough steel jack fence to temporarily enclose a quarter acre surrounding the restored reach and everyone else pitched in to erect the fence.
The Gooseberry Fish Passage Project is a prime example of how carefully targeted changes can have dramatic effects when diverse agencies and organizations work closely together towards a common goal.