Focus: Restoration Strategy for the Twisp River
Prepared by Jennifer Molesworth
Methow Valley Ranger District
Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forest
Aspen Meadows Diversion Dam pre-2005.
Aspen Meadows Diversion October 2005
Twisp River Watershed Description
The Twisp River watershed is located on the Eastern slope of the Cascade
mountain range and is 157,000 acres in size. Approximately 90% of the
watershed is on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest managed under
direction of the Okanogan National Forest Land Resource Management Plan
(LRMP) as amended by the North West Forest Plan (1994). The Twisp
watershed is a Tier 1 key watershed with watershed analysis completed by the
USFS in 1995 and again in 2001 by Pacific Watershed Institute (PWI, 2001).
About 72,000 acres of the watershed is within the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth
Wilderness and an additional 30,000 acres of the watershed are designated
Late-Successional Reserve. The Twisp River is approximately 30 miles long with
the lower 15 miles and 15,700 acres on state and private lands. The remaining
40,000 acres of National Forest land are managed as Matrix. Within the Twisp
River watershed timber harvest and road construction has occurred in the
Poorman, Newby, Canyon, Little Bridge and Buttermilk sub-watersheds, leaving
a large portion of the upper watershed in a relatively pristine condition. Livestock
grazing on National Forest lands occurs within the Lime, Canyon, Little Bridge,
Coal, Myers, Poorman, Newby, and Buttermilk Creek sub-drainages.
Endangered Upper Columbia River (UCR) Spring Chinook salmon, endangered
UCR summer steelhead trout, and Columbia River bull trout are found throughout
lower 27 miles of the Twisp River, and the lower reach of Poorman, Eagle, War,
Reynolds, South, and North Creeks. Buttermilk Creek and Little Bridge Creek
each have a combined total of about 20 miles of habitat accessible to steelhead
and bull trout.
The Twisp River is a suitable watershed to focus on because:
It is a major producer of UCR Spring Chinook, Summer steelhead, and bull
trout and presently supports the highest densities of spawning for spring
Chinook and bull trout in the Methow basin. The watershed also provides
habitat for west slope cutthroat trout.
Most of the uplands in the upper half of the watershed is protected within the
Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Area, the mainstem Twisp River above War
Creek is managed as LSR
The watershed is managed as a Tier 1 key watershed under the Northwest
Forest Plan and was given a Category 2 watershed rankning by the Upper
Columbia River Technical Team and has a high priority for protection and
Habitat protection and restoration activities have been taking place on all land
ownerships throughout the watershed since 1994.
Conservation easements on private land are being acquired by the Methow
Conservancy and Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation.
There is gaining community support for restoring the watershed.
The lower Twisp is listed under the 303D as water quality impaired because
of high summer temperatures and low flow conditions.
Rearing, spawning and holding habitat have been lost due to floodplain
development, levees, road, riprap, and reduced recruitment of large woody
debris in the lower 12 miles of the river and tributaries.
USFS road densities and location impair channel maintaining processes and
increase fine sediment delivery to the Twisp River from National Forest lands.
Grazing on USFS lands impairs riparian function in portions of Buttermilk
Creek , Little Bridge Creek and Poorman Creek. The possibility of physical
trampling of bull trout redds in Buttermilk Creek and steelhead redds in Little
Bridge Creek is an ongoing management issue.
Riparian recreation and along the Twisp River and Little Bridge Creek is
increasing and requires active management. Unmanaged motorized use off
maintained roads in riparian areas in the Little Bridge Creek watershed may
Low summer base flows in the Lower Twisp River and on USFS lands in Little
Bridge Creek is a concern.
Introduced brook trout threaten long term bull trout viability in the Twisp River
Beaver populations are substantially reduced from historic levels.
There are 220 miles of road and 530 stream crossings in the Twisp Watershed;
70 miles of these roads are within 200’ of streams. All 26 miles of the salmon,
steelhead, and bull trout habitat in the Twisp River is bounded by a road on both
sides of the river valley. From 2001 to 2005 fish passage and LWD delivery from
tributaries to the Twisp has been mostly restored by replacement of undersized
culverts in the lower reach of most of the tributaries to the Twisp River. The
Reynolds Creek crossing remains a barrier interfering with alluvial fan function
and delivery of products from Reynolds creek to the Twisp. Transportation
analysis to determine alternatives for the 4435 road is needed before the
Reynolds culvert situation is restored. The 4435 road beyond Reynolds Creek
interferes Twisp mainstem long term channel and habitat maintenance by
restricting alluvial fan function and intefereing with organic and inorganic material
delivery by debris torrent to the mainstem Twisp. The 4435 accesses the Twisp
River Horsecamp which is a popular destination for equestrians. Alternatives to
the Reynolds culvert and the 4435 road need to be explored.
The highest road densities are in the Buttermilk, Little Bridge Creek, and
Poorman subwatersheds. Little Bridge Creek delivers high levels of fine
sediment to the Twisp River partially because of the more efficient drainage
network caused by extensive stream side road locations in the subwatershed.
This situation was partially restored in 2005 with the obliteration of the Dry Creek
road. Transportation planning is needed to identify further actions that could be
taken to reduce the sediment and water routing efficiency of the transportation
system in Little Bridge Creek.
There are three irrigation ditches diverting surface water from the Twisp River,
one of these diverts across USFS land under a special use permit. There are
two small irrigation diversions on USFS land on Buttermilk Creek and Little
Bridge Creek. The diversion on Little Bridge Creek diverts over ½ of the summer
base flow (1 cfs) from the creek (the cover photo shows Little Bridge Creek at the
diversion at 1 cfs). Summer steelhead spawn and rear in Little Bridge. Ditch
permit renewal and consultation in 2006 may require a future base flow
alternative water source such as ground water.
Livestock graze on and off the National Forest in the lower half of the watershed.
On the National Forest grazing occurs mainly in the Poorman, Little Bridge
Creek, and Buttermilk sub-watersheds. Methow Valley Ranger District biologists
work continuously with range permitees and district range staff to reduce effects
of livestock on spawning fish and riparian habitat in a manner that minimizes the
impact to permitees. Title II funds will be used in 2006 to fence a wetland and
potential bull trout rearing area in Buttermilk Creek. Funding (BPA by Okanogan
Conservation District) has been applied for to fence 2 miles of Little Bridge Creek
(USFS lands) to eliminate the possibility of cattle stepping on steelhead redds in
the spring and to provide alternative grazing strategies in the watershed.
Additional fencing is needed to protect wetland water sources and stream
segments in Buttermilk Creek, Poorman Creek, and Little Bridge Creek.
The Twisp is an important watershed for camping, hiking, hunting, horseback
riding, and snowmobiling. Developed and dispersed campsites are scattered up
and down the Twisp River and are located near the river in most cases. Horse
use and camping with horses is increasing dramatically and the effect of this type
of increasing dispersed recreation use is a concern at the upper end of the river
where bull trout and spring Chinook spawn and rear. The Respect the River
program has been used in the Twisp watershed since the late 90’s and needs to
be continued – especially at North Creek, Culbertson and at 2 large sites on Little
Ongoing and Past Restoration Actions:
Extensive assessment, restoration and habitat protection has been ongoing in
the Twisp watershed since 1994. On private land the Methow Conservancy
(http://www.methowconservancy.org) has been acquiring conservation
easements on private land on key habitat reaches of the river. The Methow
Salmon Recovery Foundation (http://www.methowsalmon.org) acquired and
protected about 0.5 miles of river front and natural off channel areas from
development. MSRF uses the land for natural rearing ponds along the lower
Twisp River for hatchery steelhead acclimation, as an education center and a
native plant nursery. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) is conducting a
geomorphic assessment of the Twisp River to aid in the identification of
restoration projects mainly on private land in the watershed. The BOR has also
been active in renovating irrigation diversions to improve fish passage at
diversion dams, reduce impacts to fish at headgates and improve ditch efficiency
on private land and USFS land. The Methow Valley Ranger District has also
been engaged in restoration projects in the watershed since 1994. Past projects
Impassable and/or undersized culverts replaced at:
Little Bridge Creek 030 and 100 road crossings (2001) – benefits
steelhead and bull trout and resident fish.
Eagle Creek (2003) – benefits steelhead and resident fish,
East Fork of Buttermilk Creek (2001) – benefits bull trout and
War Creek (2005) benefits steelhead, spring Chinook, bull trout,
North Creek (2003) – benefits bull trout and resident fish.
Scatter Creek (2002) – benefits habitat maintenance for steelhead,
spring Chinook and bull trout.
Fish passage native plant re-vegetation and maintenance.
Ongoing – funded by Venture fund in 2005.
Irrigation diversions on USFS lands:
Eagle Ditch on Eagle Creek – converted to well moved off forest
(2001). Benefits steelhead and resident fish.
Tourangeau Ditch unscreened, partial barrier dam on Little Bridge
Creek– converted to well off forest (2001). Benefits juvenile
Chinook, adult and juvenile steelhead, adult bull trout, and resident
Conversion of Libby Hemsler irrigation ditch (USFS Special Use
Permit) to ground water wells on private land. Benefits juvenile
Chinook, steelhead, and bull trout, and resident fish. (NFWF
Venture fund match – 40K)
Klinkert water transmission line, poor screen and poor headgate –
abandoned 2005, area in need of restoration.
Aspen Meadows ditch enclosed in pipe to reduce sediment delivery
hazard to steelhead spawning habitat in 2001 (NFWF).
o Fish Passage Restoration at Aspen Meadows Diversion on Little
Bridge Creek – Oct. 2005 - see photographs on the front page of
this document. (2005 Tittle II, reveg funded by Venture fund).
Benefits steelhead, bull trout, resident fish.
Hottel – new headgate to protect listed fish and ditch during high
flows (2005) BOR. Benefits spring Chinook, steelhead, bull trout
and resident fish.
Buttermilk Ditch – new fish screen and diversion structure to protect
bull trout, steelhead, resident fish.
Dry Creek Road obliteration and native plant revegetation (2005
Rock ford installed on 030 spur to Aspen Meadows (2005 Venture
Road decommissioning in Buttermilk Creek and Little Bridge Creek
under Shady and TPR timber Sale projects.
Implemented Respect the River program at War Creek,
Culbertson, North Creek, Twisp River Horse camp. Drilled stock
watering wells at Twisp River Horse Camp to reduce stock
watering in bull trout rearing area.
Worked with WDFW to capture and relocate 2 problem beavers
from lower Twisp River to Beaver Creek. At least 3 other problem
beavers were captured in other watersheds and relocated to
Beaver Creek wetlands. Maintained fence around Black Pine
Beaver ponds. (2005 Venture fund)
The following was developed using the Twisp River Watershed Assessment
(USFS, 1995), Twisp River Assessment (PWI, 2003), Methow subbasin plan
(NWPCC, 2004), Methow Restoration Council meetings in 2001.
Twisp River mainstem; mouth to Buttermilk Bridge (mainly private land, 10%
USFS): Improve LWD recruitment, assess road network and road location
(county roads) and implement relocations or closures if feasible, reduce the
effects of dikes and levees, re-vegetate riparian areas where feasible, reduce
sediment delivery from Little Bridge Creek, reestablish rearing areas where
feasible. Improve landowner awareness about value of large wood, riparian
forest etc. (PWI, 2003; NWPCC, 2004)
Twisp River mainstem: Buttermilk Bridge to War Creek (40% USFS) – protect
key spring Chinook spawning area, reduce habitat suitability for brook trout,
reconnect rearing areas for juvenile Chinook, bull trout, steelhead. Reconnect
side channels. Conservation easements and or acquisition to protect floodplain
and key spawning area. Improve landowner awareness about value of large
wood, riparian forest etc.
Twisp River mainstem: War Creek to Roads End (USFS) – reduce effect of road
system on Twisp River. Maintain and restore riparian areas adjacent to
developed and dispersed recreation sites. Restore tributary connectivity to
mainstem at Reynolds Creek and landslide prone areas. Restore fish passage at
Reynolds Creek. Alluvial fan restoration at North Creek and Reynolds Creek.
Protect bull trout spawning areas on North Creek fan and at roads end
Buttermilk Creek – improve water storage function of wetlands, reduce
sediment delivery from roads, reduce livestock impacts to wetlands, protect
spawning bull trout from livestock access, improve instream flows, reintroduce
Little Bridge Creek – reduce sediment delivery to Twisp River, protect steelhead
spawning area, improve wetland function and water storage capacity, improve
late summer base flows, reduce bank erosion, reestablish beaver, restore fish
passage, reduce effects of road drainage network.
Poorman Creek – reduce sediment delivery to Twisp River, improve hydrologic
Potential Project list:
Transportation/Riparian Recreation facilities planning and
NEPA. $50,000.00 assessment and NEPA
o Assess effects and alternatives for horse campground location and
o Assess current and future recreation needs so that future
development minimizes effects to aquatic and riparian function.
o Twisp River trail relocation to restore North Creek alluvial fan/
critical bull trout spawning area;
o Reduce road density on North Creek alluvial fan, decommission
mining cabin road, decommission one of the Gilbert dispersed site
o Reduce effects of Roads End Campground on bull trout spawning
area by installing buck and pole fence, assess effects of developed
recreation areas in Riparian Reserves.
Transportation plan implementation: road reconstruction, heavy
Complete implementation of road closures as identified in TPR EA
Road maintenance: maintain drainage and reduce erosion -
Bio-engineer road fill where it is against LBC – to be developed
o Little Bridge Creek culvert replacement at Twisp River Road
$40,000.00 planning and design. $200,000.00 (?) Possible Title 2
Joint Venture with Okanogan County, BOR, and USFS
o War Creek weirs – remove log weirs that were needed to provide
passage into old culvert – regional Culvert Review Team
recommended they be left in place and removed if needed after
bridge was built – it is needed. NEPA and consultation are
o Reynolds Creek culvert removal or replacement (depends on
Transportation and recreation planning outcome)
o Poorman Creek: Replace culverts with larger sized culverts – fish
passage on private land $60,000. 3 culverts on USFS = $75,000
plus $20,000.00 for design.
North Creek alluvial fan restoration: Restore and protect one of
the most important bull trout spawning areas in the Methow basin
Re-vegetate abandoned mining cabin area, obliterate access road,
continue implementation of Respect the River program, relocate
Twisp River trail and trail bridge (pending rec. facility planning
Photo below shows North Creek side channel flowing down trail with
potential for bull trout stranding or redd dewatering, trail bridge and
main channel is in background:
Livestock Management: Buttermilk Creek Riparian protection and
water source development $ 15,000.00. Little Bridge Creek
spawning steelhead, wetland, riparian protection with fence.
Okanogan County Conservation District BPA fund request for
Jennings-Welch restoration and side channel enhancement:
Work with private landowners, Methow Conservancy, BOR to
improve natural side channels for juvenile Chinook rearing. Will
incorporate abandoned ditch on USFS lands, Respect the River
treatments, road obliteration, possible levee set back. Landowners
are very willing; project has the potential to be implemented over
several miles of the Twisp River in a major spring Chinook
spawning area. Project has the potential to improve spawning
habitat for steelhead, spring Chinook and off channel rearing.
Abandoned ditch is on USFS; wells were drilled on private land
using NFWF funds as a match to the 2005 Venture funds MVRD
received. BOR complexity project $370,000.
Improve instream flows – improve stream flows in Little Bridge
Creek and Buttermilk creek by:
o Improving ditch efficiency by lining Buttermilk ditch – project yet to
o Irrigation wells for base flow operations at Aspen Meadows - BOR
design, MSRF potential project sponsor $60,000.00.
Elbow Coulee side channel reconnection, levee removal to
restore floodplain function through cottonwood forest on mainstem
Twisp, reduce stream energy in mainstem, create rearing habitat
and possible spawning habitat for spring Chinook and steelhead.
Connect side channel to Elbow Coulee springs and wetlands.
Brook trout eradication at Elbow Coulee springs wetland. : BOR
complexity project on USFS and WDFW. BOR design and NEPA
$50,000; implement - $310,000.
Brook trout reduction – work with WDFW to develop and
implement a strategy that will reduce brook trout populations in the
Beaver management – develop facility to house problem beavers
prior to relocating to desirable locations within the watershed.
Continue to identify locations for beaver re-establishment, inventory
and monitor potential areas to reestablish and monitor post
Motorized off road closure along Twisp, Chewuch, Methow
Rivers and tributaries with listed fish. $50,000.00 Public
scoping, NEPA, signage.
Fishing regulations: request WDFW to implement fishing closure
from South Creek confluence to wilderness boundary to protect key
bull trout spawning area – current regs have this reach open with
no gear restrictions.
Supporting Assessments, Inventories and References
Andonegi, C. 2000. Salmon, Steelhead and bull trout Habitat Limiting Factors
WRIA 48: Methow Watershed. Washington State Conservation Commission.
Northwest Power and Conservation Council, 2004. Final Methow Sub-basin Plan
Pacific Watershed Institute, 2001. Twisp Watershed Assessment: Restoration
Strategies and Actions.
Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board. 2005 Draft Upper Columbia River
Salmon Recovery Plan.
USFS, 1995. Twisp River Watershed Analysis. Methow Valley Ranger District,
Winthrop, WA. Okanogan National Forest.
USFS, 1993 and 2001. Twisp River Habitat Assessment. Methow Valley
Ranger District, Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forest.
USFS 2005. Twisp River Watershed Biological Assessment for New and
Ongoing Projects. Methow Valley Ranger District, Okanogan and Wenatchee