Restoration Work to Begin on Gilchrist Creek

Gilchrist Creek at Harwood Road southeast of Atlanta in Montmorency County.

Huron Pines will break ground the week of June 22 on a project to correct seasonal flooding problems and improve fish passage on Gilchrist Creek at Harwood Road southeast of Atlanta. The roadway will be closed for an estimated six weeks as a set of three undersized culverts are removed and replaced with a new timber bridge on the small but trout-rich tributary of the Thunder Bay River.

The 32-foot timber bridge will span Gilchrist Creek from one bank to the other, allowing the stream to flow naturally under Harwood Road. Fast water moving through the existing 6-foot-diameter culverts keeps brook trout and other fish species from being able to access vital habitat upstream. The culverts also create a bottleneck that causes Hardwood Road to flood during heavy rain, and erosion caused by floodwaters further damages fish habitat and the roadway.

A timber bridge to be built at Harwood Road and Gilchrist Creek near Atlanta this summer will resemble this one on Flynn Road over Houghton Creek in Ogemaw County, built in 2015.

The new bridge will allow fish unobstructed access to 11.5 miles of upstream habitat and resolve road safety and maintenance issues for the Montmorency County Road Commission.

“Gilchrist Creek is one of the highest-quality tributaries of the Thunder Bay River and is known for its coldwater fishery for both brook and brown trout,” said Josh Leisen, Senior Project Manager for Huron Pines, the regional nonprofit conservation agency overseeing the work. “This project will help ensure fish have access to important spawning, refuge and feeding habitat in the upper part of the stream, which enhances and protects this fishery for the enjoyment of anglers and other river users.”

MacArthur Construction is expected to break ground at the Harwood Road site once the firm finishes a similar project that’s nearly complete on County Road 622 northwest of Atlanta. At that site, known locally as Shingle Mill, Huron Pines is replacing a 9-foot-diameter pipe culvert with a 27-foot bottomless arch design that will span the East Branch Black River and correct flooding and erosion issues there as well.

For safety reasons, river users should avoid these construction sites and instead use other access points along those waterways.

This project is being managed by Huron Pines and supported by Montmorency County Road Commission and KPM Engineering, with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Fish Passage Program, Great Lakes Fishery Trust and Walters Family Foundation. 

This is the first in a series of road-stream crossing projects planned for Gilchrist Creek and Hunt Creek. All four projects are funded in part by NOAA and slated for completion in 2021. The projects will replace outdated infrastructure to enhance road safety while also improving fish passage in the Thunder Bay River watershed.

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