Flat Creek National Elk Refuge Enhancement Project


The Flat Creek National Elk Refuge Enhancement Project seeks to enhance aquatic habitat for native Snake River cutthroat trout on an iconic reach of Flat Creek running through the National Elk Refuge in the heart of Jackson Hole - considered a trophy fishery for anglers. With walk-in access close to the Town of Jackson and breathtaking views, this is one of the most popular fisheries in Wyoming.


This reach of Flat Creek no longer had the velocities or connection with the floodplain needed to move sediment out of the stream bed, which resulted in smothered trout spawning habitat and filled-in pools. Initial design work and inventory for project planning was supported in 2009 by Jackson Hole Trout Unlimited, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the National Elk Refuge, which resulted in a design that will reduce sediment inputs to the watershed, improve stream processes, and increase habitat for all age classes of Snake River cutthroat trout on 3.5 miles of Flat Creek between the National Fish Hatchery and the confluence of Nowlin Creek. The goal of the enhancement is not to restore the stream to pre-settlement form, but to enhance and stabilize it within the current user demands.


The implementation phase of the project is a four-year partnership effort launched in 2013 that also includes support from the Lockhart Cattle Company, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation & Jackson Hole One Fly, Patagonia World Trout Initiative, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Snake River Fund, Teton Conservation District, Teton County Weed and Pest, and Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust. Work on the first mile was completed in October 2013, and WGFD has already documented an increase in redds and spawning fish in the project reach!


Objectives met for the first mile include:

  • Enhanced 5,400 feet of stream channel by improving 23 riffle and 25 pool habitat units
  • Removed 26 rock deflectors and 347 feet of riprap
  • Installed 13 hybrid vanes for channel pattern and profile stabilization
  • Created 19,050 feet of floodplain
  • Removed approximately 300 sq ft of reed canary grass
  • Installed approximately 4,184 sq ft of woody and sod vegetation for bank stabilization


Work over the next few years will continue with channel realignment, design of new instream structures, and bank stabilization. When complete, this blue ribbon stream will have more meanders, undercut banks, and deep pools that are able to hold more of the “lunkers” for which Flat Creek is celebrated. Ultimately, the hope is that this project will be another step to strategically improve Flat Creek from the National Elk Refuge to the confluence of the Snake River.