Oklahoma Low Impact Development

Natural Stream Restoration

Illinois RiverRivers and streams left in their natural state are of significant value to humans. They have specific functions that help maintain water quality, provide habitat for a myriad of plants and aquatic species and provides aesthetic and recreational opportunities. However, human activity, such as removal of trees and grasses along the bank, and friction of flowing water can result in damage that changes the basic ecological and physical structure of the stream. Once the stream has been degraded or disturbed it may not be able to effectively provide certain functions. This results in decreased water quality, habitat destruction, declining aesthetic value and recreational opportunities.

Natural stream restoration is the process of restoring a stream to a moreTodd Public Access Area natural state so it can provide the essential functions it did originally. This differs from conventional streambank stabilization that can be seen particularly in urban areas and around bridges. Some of the conventional ways streams have been repaired include using riprap, concrete and gabions. Installing riprap consists of placing rock or concrete chunks on a bank to stabilize it and reduce additional erosion. Metal cages called gabions may be used to hold the riprap in place. Gabions can also be cylindrical in shape and filled with rock and soil to be used as a sloped bank. Another option is to line the channel with concrete. In urban areas this is often used to direct stormwater flow. Each of these methods has pros and cons associated with using it. While they can provide bank stabilization long-term they are not as aesthetically pleasing as a grassy slope or other native vegetation. They can decrease the amount of fish habitat and may increase the amount of runoff pollution that goes into a stream as there is no longer any buffer to stop or slow down the flow from land to stream. When a channel is lined with concrete it increases the velocity of water flow and can cause erosion problems downstream where the channel is still in its natural state.

Natural stream restoration techniques return the stream to a more natural state by sloping banks and reintroducing vegetation to stabilize the bank, or using rocks and trees to direct the stream back to its original channel. Common natural restoration techniques include sloping the bank and planting vegetation, as well as using rock veins, j-hooks and root wads within the stream to direct flow. The benefits of natural stream restoration techniques include returning the bank and stream to a more aesthetically pleasing state. Also, riffles and small pools can be designed to enhance fish and wildlife habitat that may have been lost due to erosion and impaired water quality. Water quality improves by limiting the amount of sediment and other pollutants that can flow into the stream by planting and maintaining natural buffers. Since natural materials are used the impact on the area both during and after construction is minimal. Fallen trees and large rocks in one area of the stream corridor can be used in another to divert flow to protect the streambank.

Natural Stream Restoration in the News

Tahlequah Daily Press: Taking it to the bank

Tahlequah Daily Press: Project to stave off erosion in parks

KJRH-Tulsa: Restoration project underway along Illinois River

Tahlequah Daily Press:Shoring up support

Storm Water Solutions: All the Way to the Bank

...click here for older news stories on Natural Stream Restoration

OSU Natural Stream Restoration Projects

Cow Creek, Stillwater, OK

     Project Information

     Project Pictures

Illinois River Stream Channel Restoration

     Project Information

     Project Pictures

Fact Sheets

Glossary of Stream Restoration Terms, Alabama Cooperative Extension Services

Ohio Stream Management Guide No 3 Natural Stream Processes, Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Federal Stream Corridor Restoration Handbook, Natural Resource Conservation Services

Stream Restoration: Flow Deflection/Concentration Practices, Stormwater Center

Riparian Area Management Techniques, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Bulletins, Journal Articles, and Handbooks

Stream Restoration: A Natural Channel Design Course, Engineer CE and North Carolina Stream Restoration Institute and North Carolina Sea Grant

Stream Restoration Strategies for Reducing River Nitrogen Loads, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ecological Society of America


Natural Stream Restoration: Streams in Nature (Part I), from Oklahoma State University

Natural Stream Restoration: Good Streams Gone Bad (Part II), from Oklahoma State University

Natural Stream Restoration: Restoring Streams (Part III), from Oklahoma State University

Stream Restoration Techniques to prevent urban stormwater from blowing out stream channels.

Stream Restoration developed by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

Urban Stream Restoration in Raleigh, N.C. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6


June 2, 2016 workshop by Dr. Doug Shields titled "Designing Channels for Stream Restoration":

Other Stream Restoration Websites

Stream Restoration, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Wildland Hydrology Consultants, Dave Rosgen

Streams & Rivers Restoration, NOAA Habitat Conservation, National Marine Fisheries Service

Ecosystem Restoration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Stream Restoration Projects, North Carolina State University Stream Restoration Program

A Landowner's Guide to Streambank Protection and Stabilization,

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

Honey Creek Restoration Project, Grand Lake Watershed Alliance Foundation

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