Extensive placer mining in the French Gulch drainage beginning in the 1860’s left over 3 miles of French Gulch in the upper Big Hole River watershed in a highly degraded state.  The stream was straightened, disconnected from its floodplain and providing minimal fish or wildlife habitat.  This project’s objective was to remove placer tailings from the floodplain, re-establish natural stream meanders and reconnect floodplain and wetlands to reduce sedimentation in French Creek.

The project took multiple years of planning by the BHWC and partners, who pulled together 7 different funding sources.  The project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.


$1.3 million


  • Restoration of 3 miles of stream channel with:
    • Creation of over 7 acres of new floodplain means:
      • Floodplain/channel connectivity for sediment catchment, promote riparian/wetland vegetation,
      • Improved water holding and flood attenuation
    • Establishment of emergent wetland environments
    • Over 50 fish habitat pool structures installed
    • Close to 30,000 cubic yards of placer tailings removed from floodplain
  • Nearly 4000 feet of bio-engineered streambanks
  • Over 10,000 live willow stakes and 2000 container plants installed


Design and Oversight: Morrison-Maierle

Construction: Montana Civil Contractors with Watershed Consulting


Here’s some sped-up videos of excavator cutting the new French Gulch creek channel