Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Wrap it Up

To play catch up, you can read the past progress reports here.
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As far as I’m concerned, the removal of the 175 year old, nearly 8 foot tall dam near the mouth of Blackberry Creek was a raging success.

I gauge this primarily on the migration of smallmouth bass up the creek, of which there were hundreds. But numerous other species of fish were also caught far up the creek this past year. It’s hard to tell if those species were already in the creek, most likely, but I have no doubt quite a few new fish found there way up stream. One of the ones I was surprised at was the longnose gar. Never saw one beyond the base of the removed dam, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to make it further inland.

Only time will tell.

If you look through the list of posts made in the link at the top, there’s a gap in what I had been putting up. There were two reasons for that. First, by the first week of July it had pretty much quit raining and the creek kept dropping. Second, when this happens I don’t like to go out and pound the hell out of fish that are sitting in diminishing pools of water.

Now and then I would head over to the creek mainly to see if any progress was being made in restoring the area of the removal back to something a little more natural. You’ll see some of those photo’s below. For about seven weeks I didn’t bother going over to the creek at all. Low water and it was basically like watching grass grow at this point. As you’ll see, it was exactly like watching grass grow.

So to start, on July 7th I wandered to the creek:

When they put in all the rock, they threw down a considerable amount of seed in and above the rocks. It was coming in pretty thick.

A number of nice sized trees were planted.

A large area was covered in grass seed. Problem was, and how do you plan for it, this is when it pretty much stopped raining for a few weeks.

Another long stretch of rocks had grass coming in pretty strong above it.

A few weeks ago I read an article about the dam removal. I can no longer remember where and I can’t find it. But I remember IDNR stream biologist Steve Pescitelli being quoted in it at length. One of the things he mentioned was the smallmouth bass migration up the creek and that they found them four miles inland.

For over a decade I’ve been exploring Blackberry Creek inland, but never fished it. Since I pursue smallmouth bass in creeks, I assumed because of the dam near the mouth there was no point looking for smallies. Over those years I would fish at the base of the dam once or twice a year. Every smallie caught was tossed over the dam, my own little stream stocking program. A couple of years ago a friend sent a note that they had caught a couple of smallies about a mile up from the dam. Apparently my private stocking program might have worked a little.

This year I went inland looking for them. I’ve been eyeballing a spot ten miles inland for many years and on July 12th I did a little exploring:

The creek is a little flatter this far inland, much like the land surrounding it, but you still get some classic riffle/run/pool scenarios.

I remember the day as 90 degrees and the creek a little low, so I was happy to catch a couple of these 10 miles inland.

On July 22nd I was back at the main construction site to see how things were growing along:

Boulders were placed along the edge of the parking lot in an effort to idiot proof the area. Heaven forbid common sense tells you not to drive your car out there.

Over two weeks later, still no rain, nothing growing. I was a little concerned about the trees getting stressed out, but won’t know if they survived till spring of next year.

I didn’t go back again till August 11th:

We still hadn’t got much rain, but the grass behind the boulders didn’t seem to care. I didn’t get a picture, but beyond that grass line there was still nothing growing.

One of the things I don’t think they should have done as part of this project is restore what they call a wetland. If the dam wasn’t there, this wetland wouldn’t have existed. At least not eight feet above the creek bed. I think this is all fill that slowly collected over 175 years and if they really wanted to restore this wetland, then they should have taken the whole area down to creek level:

Now this wetland is an eight foot tall ridge along the creek with a big dry hole behind it.

In order for the water to fill this hole the creek has to come up over three feet to get over the rocks they put along one small stretch. That doesn’t happen that often and this hole will dry up again. If in 20 years you come here and find this whole area to be a nice, heavily wooded area made up of oaks and maples, I don’t know anything about it…

There are some flowers establishing themselves in amongst the rocks.

I didn’t go back to the creek again till October 2nd. Most of the pictures I took that day are in a post that I put up on October 7th. There’s an update on the creek in that post.

We had been getting rain by then, but it came too late to get things growing. It did soften the dirt in the area though. The one thing that pissed me off that day was seeing this:

Remember the boulders on the edge of the parking lot? Apparently they weren’t put close enough together. No matter how well you try to idiot proof something, God will come along and simply create a better idiot.

And with this, I am done with my Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Updates.

There will be no more.

I’m sure I will go fishing on the creek come March, I’m sure I’ll catch some fish, I’m sure I’ll take some pictures and I’m sure I’ll write something up about the fishing trip.

But I will no longer mention the creek by name. There will be no recognizable photos of the creek posted. As far as anyone else is concerned, it’s just another one of the seven or so creeks I fish that happen to feed into the Fox River.

This is going to be done for purely selfish reasons.

The interest level in fishing the Fox River and it’s creeks, at least in the areas I like to fish, has dropped off considerably over the past eight years.

I run into practically no one while out there fishing.

And I want to keep it that way.

12 thoughts on “Blackberry Creek Dam Removal Update, Wrap it Up

  1. walt

    A great success story, Ken, and I’m looking forward to reading more posts about “so-and-so creek” and river in the new year.

    1. Ken G Post author

      The trained eye will always know where I am Walt.

      After posting this I gave it some thought. I may do one post a year, end of summer, start of fall, just to document it’s progress over time. Otherwise, it really is watching grass grow.

    1. Ken G Post author

      It was fun to do Dan and I wasn’t sure how many were bothering going along with it. It’s a pretty cool process to see unfold, especially the new places to fish.

  2. bob

    well, well. a well documented event. the rebirth of a stream, a creek, a fishery, after 175 years relative infertility. Marvelous. and yes, i must congratulate the IDNR for doing it. Mum is the word, although, other than with the parking lot dudes, God doesn’t create a lot of new type of idiot stream fishermen. Mainly it will be the few, the very few, the masochistically proud, idiot stream fishermen were already know who will venture up there. Superb

    1. Ken G Post author

      “Mainly it will be the few, the very few, the masochistically proud, idiot stream fishermen we already know who will venture up there. ”

      That pretty much sums up your journey there Bob.

      Been sizing up the next section to explore. Get in shape…

  3. Jim McClellan

    Great story, Ken. Thanks for sharing the amazing journey of this dam removal. I hope you have a great new year of fishing along the creek.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Thanks Jim. I wish there was another one coming up soon so I can do it again. There’s been a couple of dams on the dam removal table for over 10 years now. Geezzz, it’s not that hard of a decision. I’d like to fish the new stretch in my life time.

  4. Richard Velders

    I hope to see you there in the spring. It;s been a pleasure for me to watch the progress of the dam removal from my River Rd residence. and to enjoy the effects it has had on the smallie fishing. Thanks the pictures and commentary which I have saved to my archives. Dick

    1. Ken G Post author

      We’ll have to meet up there come spring Dick. We’ll also avoid the long Death March Bob took, but when the weather is milder it really isn’t that bad. Well, for the most part.

  5. bob

    I will be physically and pyschologically ready to walk and fish the upstream sections. I will do it in the cooler weather of spring with you before the Burma Road jungle growth has kicked in. I now know what to wear, what to leave in the car, what to carry, how much water/ice tea to tote around, what type of wading gear I need, what rod and little fanny pack to carry. It will be interesting to see the fish way up and know, unless they were given the old space shuttle heave over the dam by you, they are new migrants doing what nature intended them to do. It is so effing cool, I can barely stand it. We ought to call you Kenny-Smallmouth-Seed (like Johnny Apple Seed) although that sounds vaguely porno-like.

    1. Ken G Post author

      April into May and into June if it cooperates Bob.

      Experience teaches even old dogs new things.

      And yes, very porno-like.

      I’ll do a little more virtual exploring over the winter months and see what else I can come up with, both here and elsewhere. I think it’s time to revisit a few others. It’s been a little while.

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