This fall the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve successfully completed our bi-annual survey of the Yellow Dog River and Salmon Trout River. We would like to give a huge thank-you to our amazing volunteers who donated their time and have been dedicated to our cause. The volunteers collected data at 17 sites along the Yellow Dog River, the Salmon Trout River and conneced tributaries. This fall the total number of sites on the Yellow Dog River has been reduced from 20 sites to 10 sites for bi-annual monitoring, while maintaining the existing 8 sites on the Salmon Trout River. This makes the total number of sites 18. This action was accepted by our Yellow Dog River Watershed Steering Committee and our Board of Directors to make the program more feasible. In order to reach some of these sites, hiking into the wilderness was sometimes necessary. Volunteers were willing to hike up to 3 1/2 miles carrying equipment. We were not able to monitor one site on Alder Creek because it was below CR 550 bridge construction throughout our sampling season.
Volunteers are sent into the river in groups to collect macroinvertebrates from specific habitats following the Michigan Clean Water Corps protocol. After the bugs are collected they are sorted and species are counted. Different bugs thrive in different levels of water cleanliness. For example, mayflies and stoneflies are in the sensitive category, which means they need really clean water to survive. On the other hand, leeches and aquatic worms can live in just about anything so they are in the tolerant category. After we sort all of the bugs, we use the MiCorps index calculations to determine a stream quality score for the site, which may be: poor, fair, good or excellent. The stream quality scores indicate that the Yellow Do and Salmon Trout Rivers are healthy at this point. However, it is important to note that the Salmon Trout has only been monitored for three seasons which is not yet a complete analysis according to our Quality Assurance Project Plan. This year out of 8 sites on the Salmon Trout, we had: 4 excellent sites, 3 good sites, and one fair site. We have determined that the ‘fair’ site is in recovery from a culvert and road washout that happened in 2011, when a large amount of sediment washed downstream and filled in some of the macro invertebrate habitats. Over the last three collections at this site, the numbers have been slowly and consistently improving. This means that the health of the stream at that site is slowly improving. For 9 out of 10 sites on the Yellow Dog, we had: 5 excellent sites, 3 good sites, and one fair site. The site that scored fair has a ford going through it and is located on the Little Pup, a tributary of the Yellow Dog. Recent heavy logging and traffic could have caused a loss of ideal habitat conditions but our analysis is not yet conclusive. We will continue bi-annual monitoring of all 18 sites and work with local decision-makers to address concerns.
This year a few of our volunteers stepped up and donated extra time to become volunteer crew leaders for the stream monitoring programs. Leaders were responsible for coordinating their group on the collection day, completing datasheets, and increasing their knowledge and ability to identify the bugs. We would really like to thank these honorary individuals for going above and beyond the call of duty, they are: Carla Gregory, Adam Magnuson, Declan Shalley, Reed Saam and Joe Parks! The grant we received from MiCorps to monitor the Salmon Trout River was designed to train volunteers to take crew leader positions who will eventually run the fieldwork portion of the project. Yellow Dog staff will maintain the administrative side as well as analyze and house the data. If you would like to see how the Salmon Trout River measures up to other streams in Michigan, visit: http://www.micorps.net/. Click on data exchange and search for Salmon Trout. To learn more about the Yellow Dog River please contact us. With one more training session to go in the spring of 2014 our program is succeeding with the perseverance of our wonderful volunteers! Thanks again for a great season!