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. Completed 2017.


$1.3 million


  • Over 17 acres of floodplain/wetlands created
  • Over 30,000 cubic yards (810,000 cubic feet) of mine tailings removed from floodplain
  • A new stream channel length over 7,400 feet with pools, woody debris habitat, and bioengineered willow lifts. That’s 1800 more feet compared to before!
  • 3,215 linear feet of past channel now converted to new wetlands
  • 48 fish habitat structures installed
  • More than 1,000 feet of road reconstructed
  • Increased sinuosity over 30%
  • Over 200 pounds of wetland seed broadcast
  • Over 2,200 riparian container plants installed
  • 30,000 willow stakes and whips planted  


Design and Oversight: Morrison-Maierle

Construction: Montana Civil Contractors with Watershed Consulting; RS Johnson Contractors; Montana Conservation Corps

Here’s a video of the construction process from 2016:

Field Notes: Get an up-close look at the project in this series of short videos by Pedro Marques, Restoration Programs Manager

See all of our Field Notes videos on our YouTube playlist here: