Written by: Jim DeRito, Trout Unlimited
Otter Creek is a located within the Bear River watershed in northeastern Utah amongst rolling sage brush hillsides. It’s a wide-open and remote watershed where winter air temperatures can be bitterly cold and summers scorching hot. The three headwater forks of the creek are primarily spring fed and offer cold, clear water that provides ribbons of green streamside vegetation amidst this dry landscape. This creek historically contained Bonneville cutthroat trout (above) and the ultimate goal is to reestablish them in the headwaters of this stream.
As part of the Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles campaign, Trout Unlimited has been working with the Bureau of Land Management and private ranchers to improve fish passage at culverts and irrigation diversions on the three forks of Otter Creek. Over a dozen fish passage improvements have been completed with the intent to fully reconnect the sixteen miles of the three forks of Otter Creek. The latest fish passage project is an undersized county road culvert on the North Fork of Otter Creek that is a seasonal fish passage barrier and also a source of erosion (above).
In autumn, 2014 the undersized culvert was replaced with a much larger, eight-foot diameter culvert that was partially buried into the streambed. The increased capacity of the culvert will accommodate high streamflows, eliminate erosion of the road bed, and provide unimpeded fish passage to another three miles of creek. Road base and gravel were provided by the Rich County Roads Department. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will be reintroducing Bonneville cutthroat trout to this stream during the next few years.