Happy Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe, but it has been 5 years since the completion of Phase II of the Archey Fork restoration project! It is time to deliver some updates on both this project and others we are doing in the Greers Ferry Lake watershed.

Our last entry detailed some of the flooding that occurred at the park. We are happy to report that the washed-out sidewalk has been repaired and people are using it, walking along the project site every day. Floods are still coming, and the site is holding up well!

If you walk along the trail, you might see that the willows, sycamores, and river birch are getting well established and doing their job to keep the streambanks stable and in place. We could not be more pleased with the way the project has turned out. What about you? We are eager to hear your comments.

As we head into the spring and summer months, we are looking forward to seeing everyone who is utilizing the river and the park, as well as the return of green, signaling the start of warmer weather. During a recent visit, we ran into an angler who said the smallmouth fishing was great. Now, just a couple more months until it’s time to float!

Winter Floods and Mild Temps

The winter and spring rains have kept us inside quite a bit, but we’ve kept our eye on the restoration area. The most notable flood event was December 27-30, 2015. Our on-site rain gauge measured 7.64 inches in the three day period, and water depth on the USGS gauge read at 19 feet for December 28, 2015! Check out the slideshow of in-stream flood pictures below.

The flooding reached into Archey Creek Park, covering the field and spilling into the bathroom and concession stand. Our restoration is not meant to prevent this type of flooding. Floods like these will naturally occur periodically because Archey Creek Park was built in the floodplain with the purpose of accommodating the flows of a fairly large water system. Flooding allows the fish community and other aquatic species to access the floodplain, typically a terrestrial and disconnected land. By allowing flood waters to access the floodplain, aquatic species get to gorge themselves on frogs and other critters that are usually unavailable to them.  As a byproduct they fill the pond as well – better fishing!  The nutrients from the water also nourish the land, making the grass greener and trees healthier. For a natural ecosystem, flooding is a wonderful thing, but for joggers and ball players, we understand that it is a bit of an inconvenience. This is one way that humans and nature coexist within a river’s boundary.

Despite all of the high water, the restoration site is still doing stellar with all structures performing just as expected. A section of the new walking trail, however, was…well…compromised. Unfortunately, this segment of the trail was placed too close to the stream bank, and the flood waters undercut the pavement. It was pretty impressive and a reminder of how powerful water can be, particularly in places without large tree root systems already established.

Needless to say, repairs are underway and set to be completed by May 2016. The trail has been moved farther from the stream to protect it from flood damage like this. Pavement has already been poured, and Geocell, an erosion control product, will be installed on both sides of the trail. Geocell is a honeycomb shape of welded, high-density polyethylene strips. It will eliminate rutting around the trail edges and still allow water to drain through. Because so many visitors frequent the park, there are plans in the making to expand the trail system. This will allow walkers and nature viewers to access more of the park, see more views of the restoration project and river scenery, and raise that heart rate!

After these spring rains and the Geocell is installed, we should be in good shape for the summer. We’re looking forward to seeing you on the trail soon!


A red-shouldered hawk hunts for prey along the j-hook structure.

Why Partnerships Between Industry and Conservation Groups Matter

This is a re-post we’d like to share from Mark Boling, President-V+ Development Solutions at Southwestern Energy.  Mark describes our collaboration well, we’d like to thank him and the staff at SWN once again for recognizing the Archey Fork Little Red River as the important resource that it is for the community of Clinton.  See the posting here https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-partnerships-between-industry-conservation-groups-mark-boling?trk=prof-post 

Mark Boling at a site visit to the Archey Fork in 2013.

Mark Boling at a site visit to the Archey Fork in 2013.

A great dedication of Phase 2

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A great time was had last Thursday with our Archey Fork partners and friends in Clinton. The city of Clinton kindly hosted us all to a fantastic fish fry, following the dedication of the project, and we can’t say thank you enough. We are lucky to work in such a great community!

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The project tour promptly followed the dedication where the methodology for restoring the river was explained.  All the new structures in the river, including the toe-wood, J-hook, and boulder riffles were showcased and their function in the river described.  If you missed it, no worries!  As mentioned at the event, The Nature Conservancy will continue to monitor the project, irrigate the newly planted vegetation, and fund-raise for Phase III of the project over the next six months.  If you are interested in volunteering in any of these efforts, please email Joy DeClerk (jdeclerk@tnc.org) we are always looking for new friends in the community that are interested in getting involved!   Thanks again to the City of Clinton for the wonderful fish fry and to Southwestern Energy, without your substantial contribution this project would not be a reality.

June 11th Dedication of Phase II and Spring Update

We are long overdue for an update and have lots to share!  It may take several posts to catch everyone up to speed on progress, spring floods, growth, and park enhancements.  First, let me invite everyone to the park on June 11th for a dedication of Phase II of the project, funded in majority by Southwestern Energy Company.  Please click the link here for the Phase II Dedication Invitation. We will gather at Archey Fork Park, rain or shine, at 10 am for brief remarks, refreshments, and a tour of the project along the city’s new River Walk Trail.  We hope you will join us, you’ll be amazed at the river’s new look!

This new boulder home for the yellowcheek darter held well during all the May floods.

This new boulder home for the yellowcheek darter held well during all the May floods.

We concluded Phase II construction in February/March of this year and proceeded to plant over 200 trees along the river banks.  Thanks so much to Carol Corning and the Clinton High School students and especially to the Southwestern Energy employees who dedicated time towards our planting efforts along the river and making enhancements along the Archey Fork Park trail.

AR TNC prescribed fire crew helping us for the day!

AR TNC prescribed fire crew helping us for the day!


Thank you Carol Corning for bringing these Clinton High School students to help plant trees!

Although it was a stormy day, 16 Southwest Energy employees came with shovels and wheelbarrows in hand on May 15th to help with park enhancements along Town Branch at the east end of the park.  The rain didn’t deter these folks as we brought in stone from Stevens Stone Supply and proceeded to make stone tree rings that we later mulched.  These were not easy to build and everyone worked hard, thank you SWN!

After all the rain these planted trees have had in the last several weeks, they are sure to do well in their new environment! As always though the heat and summer dryness will eventually come and we’ll be prepared.  Despite only using our irrigation system once or twice last year, we will set it up again and every 10 days it doesn’t rain, we’ll pump a nominal amount of water out of the river to irrigate the newly planted trees.

SWN employees volunteering their time to enhance the trees planted along Town Branch in Archey Fork Park.

SWN employees volunteering their time to enhance the trees planted along Town Branch in Archey Fork Park.

As many of you have seen for yourself, Dwight Wilson with the City of Clinton has been hard at work extending the walking trail into the newly acquired park area and along Phase I of the river restoration project.  Thank you to Charles Wilson for clearing the area and Dwight for creating a way for people to see and learn about the restoration work we have completed, the trail looks great!

The new addition to the River Walk Trail

The new addition to the River Walk Trail

We hope to see everyone at the June 11th event so you can see the good work for yourself.

Joy DeClerk

Super Harvest Moon

During the restoration process, we use game cameras to monitor the site to see how our structures perform during flood events, capture footage of construction work, and track wildlife usage. The pictures and videos are used in presentations, reports, and social media outlets such as this blog. On September 8, 2014, we experienced not only a harvest moon but also a supermoon.

Behold, the Super Harvest Moon!

This video was taken in Phase 1 Bend 1, looking downstream from the j-hook structure.

http://earthsky.org/space/harvest-moon-2#super offers more information on what occurred this particular date as well as definitions of a harvest moon and supermoon.

New Year Bankfull Flows

As I end the day by gazing at a big full winter moon in the sky, I think to myself what a wonderful, cold, yet sun-shiny post-flood day I got to spend outside.  Since December, 2009 I have spent most Christmas holiday breaks watching the weather, precipitation gauges, and stream gauges anticipating high river flows for the stream sites we’ve restored.  This often brings feelings of excitement and anticipation… and perhaps a little anxiety as I wait to see how Mother Nature will respond to our attempt to restore the right dimension, pattern, and profile to the river.  On December 21st, 2013 one short day after completing Phase one’s construction, Clinton received a large amount of rain on already saturated soils and our project was put to the test.  This holiday break proves to be no less exciting than last years!

After loading up the family this sunny and frigid morning and heading north, I knew it was the perfect time to visit the Archey project.  Mr. Steve Bone, after checking the rain gauge onsite, let me know that after 3.5 days of rain we received 8.04 inches in total!  Looking at the South Fork Little Red River gauge, it was on the falling limb of a very large spike in flow – almost 10,000 cfs!  I couldn’t wait to check game cameras, take pictures, and see it for myself.  The clouds cleared and I was able to take great pictures and video of all our structures under high flow.  I couldn’t be more pleased with our results, so I raced back to my computer to download the footage and get it posted ASAP….

First, you can view this short clip of construction of the toewood structure in Phase II ending with the flood event of January 2-3, 2015.  You will notice the water rose almost up to bankfull elevation and well above the toewood structure onto the transplants on the first bench.  One of our cameras upstream even went under water!

Finally, check out these photos taken today on the falling side of the flood starting from upstream in Phase I, going all the way through 5 riffles and 3 pools to the downstream end of Phase II.  Notice all the great riffle boulder habitat that creates the large waves, perfect for boating, during high flows.  This also happens to make great habitat for the Yellowcheek darter and many other riffle obligate fish!

As we wrap up our work on Phase 2 of the project, you’ll be sure to see more of our construction footage and subsequent floods.  To complete this year’s work, we are teaming with the City to remove the invasive species Chinese Privet that has taken over much of the park area.  We will replace that area with large hardwood tree transplants from other areas of the river corridor.  This will insure the long-term stability of the stream banks once the larger tree roots take hold.  We are also helping to layout the additional walking trail that allow people to walk the entire restoration project and see the good work that’s been done from upstream to down!  Feel free to pose questions and/or comments on the project here on our weblog!  Thanks for your continued support and interest!

– Joy

Biological Monitoring with ADEQ

One way that we will measure success of the restoration effort is to monitor the fish community. Why? Well, for one, Archey Fork used to be a place where you could cast a line from the bank or a kayak, and we hope to regain that relaxing recreation. Fishes are used as indicators of habitat quality and water chemistry. So many factors affect the presence and abundance of certain fish species such as oxygen levels, substrate type, and water velocity. One of our many partners in this project, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), sampled the fish community this fall for the first, post-construction sample, and we already notice a difference! Yellowcheek darters have been missing from this stretch of the Archey Fork Little Red since the channelization occurred in the late 1980’s, but this fall – less than a year after installation of the enhanced boulder riffle in Phase I – we discovered a Yellowcheek living there!! This is an amazing find since the species is an endemic and endangered species. An endemic species is one that is only found in a specific location. The Yellowcheek is endemic to the Little Red River system.

Yellowcheek Darter

Yellowcheek Darter

A barge shocker was used to collect fish species in pools, and a seine net was used to collect species in riffles. A seine was used in the riffles because the most sensitive, threatened, and/or endangered species in the upper Little Red are found in riffle habitats, and electroshocking units can stress these fishes. They’re tender little fellas, so we have to sample their habitat gingerly and return them to the stream as soon as we identify them.

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Aquatic insects, or macroinvertebrates, were also sampled in these sites. Macroinvertebrates are used as biological indicators just like fishes but sometimes can tell a different story. Think of an ant verses a grasshopper. If if kid spills a slurpee in a park, the grasshopper could simply fly or hop away. The ant is so tiny, though, and it takes longer for it to move out of the area. Macroinvertebrates are somewhat stuck where they are due to limited mobility, whereas fishes can migrate long distances. Also, the lifetime of a macroinvertebrate is shorter than that of a fish. Sampling both of these groups will give a more comprehensive, short-term, and small-scale story. This biological monitoring project will track changes and developments in the fish and macroinvertebrate communities for the years 2012 (pre-restoration), 2014 (post-Phase I construction), 2016 (post-Phase II and potentially Phase III), and 2018 (post-Archey Fork restoration). We hope to find a higher species richness and a stronger showing of sensitive, threatened, and/or endangered species each year in Archey Fork, in addition to habitat for many of the game fish that made this stretch of river quite a popular fishing spot in the past. It looks positive so far, and the town has every right to be proud of it’s work in progress.

Flooding footage over toe-wood structure in Phase I

We are long past due for an update, but we’ve been hard at work on Phase II of the restoration project which is now nearly complete!  First – check out this short slide show that captures several flood events that have occurred since last years work.  You will see how great the toe-wood structure functions to keep the high velocities of the river in the center of the channel sparing many river birch and sycamore trees from being eroded away into the river.

Also, read this great story written about the project this month in the Arkansas Times!


Lastly, look at a few photos of how great our transplants of alder, willow, sycamore, and river birch survived and thrived after the first growing season, a great success!