Bates Creek Watershed Project

Bell Draw WatershedBell Draw Hydrologic Research

Wyoming Game and Fish Department Project Objectives
In 2004, WY Game and Fish initiated a long term vegetation treatment project in the Bates Creek Watersheds. Treatments are being implemented in a series of small watersheds over the next 16 years. Their objectives were:

  • Set back succession in aspen communities using prescribed fire  in the sagebrush steppe and mechanical treatments in the forested uplands creating uneven-aged stands across the landscape.
  • Improve hydrologic function within the Bates Creek  watershed.
  • Improve forage conditions for elk, mule deer and livestock.
  • Improve elk and mule deer parturition areas (areas where elk cows and mule deer does give birth).
  • Improve habitat conditions for aspen dependent wildlife such as blue grouse, song birds, woodpeckers, etc.

Hydrologic Research
The Hydrologic Research was started in 2008.

Goal: Increase our understanding of the short and long-term impacts of vegetation management on the hydrologic function in rangeland watersheds

  • Objectives
  • Quantify the short term impacts of vegetation manipulation on the hydrologic response in the Bates Creek watersheds
  • Develop a framework for assessing the long-term impacts as the management continues
  • Assess the effects of wood mulch on hydrologic response in the Bell Draw watershed
  • Approach
  • Install instrumentation at critical areas of the watershed 
  • Established permanent vegetation monitoring plots 
  • Develop a watershed water balance
  • Conduct rainfall simulator experiments to determine water holding capacity of the mulch
  • Instrumentation
  • Stream Flow
    - Pressure transducers
  • Precipitation
    - Rain gauges
    - Snow depth sensors
    - Snow survey course
  • Subsurface Flow
    - Soil moisture probes
    - Piezometers
  • Meteorological Data
    - Anemometer
    - Relative humidity
    - Temperature
Summary
  • Approximately 90% of the convective storm water is lost to ET (July, August, September) 
  • Soil water recharge did not occur until late September and October 
  • Each 2 cm increase of wood mulch depth accounts for an approximate 15% increase in direct rainfall interception
Future Research
  • Eco- hydrology of wood mulch depth and aspen suckering response 
  • Evaluate snow redistribution patterns and aspen/conifer patch dynamics 
  • Soil moisture and snowmelt dynamics on post fire sagebrush steppe rangelands 
  • Long-term evaluation of changes in hydrologic response