During the summer of 2018, our office completed our largest stream restoration project to date – a 4,850 foot restoration project on Sargent Creek, one of Duluth’s cherished designated trout streams, near Duluth’s western limits. This relatively small (2,000 acre), forested watershed begins near the western end of Skyline Parkway near Mission Creek Parkway. It then runs  south/southeast along Beck’s Road and the Munger Trail, west of Gary/New Duluth and empties into the St. Louis River at Boy Scout Landing (Commonwealth Ave.).

The steep  ravines through which this creek runs have helped to deter development and allow for high-quality, terrestrial and aquatic habitat to exist undisturbed. The area has such high-quality habitat that the City of Duluth has designated parts of this watershed as a forest preserve and the MN Biological Survey has identified the area as a site of high biodiversity significance. Due to it’s remoteness, Sargent Creek can be difficult to access, but the  natural, wilderness-like quality of its watershed can be enjoyed from  the Willard Munger Trail, Mission Creek Parkway or the Superior Hiking Trail.

Considering the existing high-quality conditions of this watershed, one may wonder why the SWCD chose to focus on restoring Sargent Creek when there are so many other impaired waters that need attention.  The flood of 2012 impacted almost every stream in Duluth, including Sargent Creek. The reach that we restored is located between Mission Creek Parkway and the Willard Munger State Trail. Located wholly on public land (County and City-owned), this reach was eligible for funding that was specially appropriated by the MN State Legislature for flood recovery efforts in our area. The SWCD identified this reach as a priority for restoration as it was being negatively impacted by sediment impacts from several large eroding banks along the creek. These banks were scoured out by the high, fast flows of the 2012 flood and were continuing to shed sediment into the creek during high flows. Trout and other coldwater species need clear, cool water and clean substrate to thrive, so restoring the channel in such a way as to help reduce the amount of sediment in this reach was a primary goal of this project. Using a technique called Natural Channel Design, SWCD staff and its engineering partners, TSA #3 created a restoration design that restored the pattern, profile and dimension of the creek to a stable channel that could withstand high flows without causing further erosion of the adjacent banks. Because of its special  status as a designated trout stream and site of high biodiversity,  our design also included the creation of trout habitat such as deep pools, gravel riffles and natural, overhead cover, and  the planting of hundreds of native trees in the riparian corridor and on the restored access roads.   Please call our office for more information on this project, or any of our stream restoration projects at 218-723-4946.

This project was made possible by a grant provided by the MN Department of Natural Resources, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature (MN Session Laws 2014,Chapter 294, Article 2a). Staff from St. Louis County, MN DNR Hydrology staff, the City of Duluth, and the MN DNR Parks and Trails Division were critical in helping to make this project happen and we are very grateful for their support. The State of Minnesota is also a sponsoring agency for this project.

MPCA link to Sargent Creek data: https://cf.pca.state.mn.us/water/watershedweb/wdip/details.cfm?wid=04010201-848