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Gordon Creek Stream Restoration

The Gordon Creek Stream Restoration Project was completed in 2015 and minor repairs took place in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Gordon Creek is a perennial spring-fed stream that was ditched and straightened in the past to facilitate the haying of the wet and sub-irrigated meadows. The ranchers did not know at the time that the ditching and straightening of the stream would, over time, cause the stream to flow faster and cut down in the sand. Over decades, the water level of the stream lowered which also lowered the water table on the associated meadows. As that water table lowered, the plants growing in the meadow were no longer sub-irrigated. The stream banks also became very steep and they sloughed off regularly.

Gordon Creek before the stream restoration project

The objective of this project was to restore the natural hydrology to a 3-mile section of Gordon Creek, a perennially flowing stream, and 422 acres of the associated wetlands and wet meadows. The hydrological restoration included reconnecting the stream to the historic floodplain, thereby restoring the water table level, providing aquatic passage, and increasing the quality and quantity of wetland stream habitat for federal trust species including long-billed curlew, trumpeter swan, whooping crane, American burying beetle, and Topeka shiner.

As a result, the current flow was re-directed into an abandoned remnant channel which was at the elevation of the existing wet meadow. Much of the abandoned remnant channel existed with the proper dimensions, pattern and profile the historic stream utilized. In certain locations, the remnant channel needed to be excavated to the proper slope, profile, and channel dimensions. Constructed portions of the remnant channel were built to handle base flows, and higher flows will be able to access the functional floodplain. On the extreme downstream end of the project, two low level grade stabilization structures were constructed in the existing ditched channel. The structures are a wide overflow type structure that holds a permanent elevation for the entire upstream length of the project.

Willows and false indigo were transplanted to a couple areas along the restored stream to prevent excessive erosion. The transplants were cut from local plants and staked in the ground in the spring of 2017.

Construction Specifications:

  • Intermittently restore and construct 21,150 feet of stream channel.

  • Contour and shape 3.2 acres of entrenched stream channel.

  • Install 4,224 square foot of tied concrete block mat (Flexamat).

  • Install 733 square yards of permanent turf reinforcing mat.

Gordon Creek immediately after stream restoration (same area area of stream as Before photo)

This project was made possible by the Sandhills Task Force, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners Program, Nebraska Environmental Trust, National Fish and Wildlife Foundations, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The landowner was also an integral partner in this project.


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