Ever tried clearing a creek of strainers

There is a nice creek near me that I’ve gone down to investigate that has numerous strainers on it. The creek typically averages about 3’ deep and is about 20-30’ across in most places. Typical water flow is about 100 cfs, so slow you almost sit still if you’re not paddling. It would be a really nice place to go if it wasn’t for so many trees down. I realize that without machinery this would be quite a task but worth it if it could be done. Anybody else tried to clear a creek before?

clearing rivers
I found the best thing is take a chainsaw and just clear the most likely path. As im sure you well know a big rain will change it all anyway. There are alot of log jams and strainers on my rivers, you just get good at ducking squeezing and climbing.

…tie onto length to be cut (with rope)
…and drag it to shore to cut more, if it’s long…cuz if it is…it’ll become a mini strainer downstream once cut the first time.

ecology & ethics considerations


– Last Updated: May-09-10 7:28 AM EST –

I worked on a local sod farm for many years and regularly cleared the creek (~2mi) that flowed through it. I did that at least once every year (usually late summer)to clear it so the creek wouldn't back up onto the fields during spring floods. It was lined with mostly Box Elders which blocked the flow pretty effectively once smaller debris from upstream got caught in downed trees or even large branches.

More occasionally I've helped clear strainers with some folks from my local paddling club to help out in preparation for a race we attend. There's even a guy in our club who got a grant, bought John boats, and clears water trails in our county. Its pretty much his living now, cleaning streams of strainers and trash. Good work if you can get it.

As was previously suggested, tie on to the piece to be cut prior to cutting, especially if its larger. (A tractor with a bucket and a logger's chain works great, but I bet that isn't an option for you.) A "come-along" and/or z-drag rig isn't a bad idea.
Be very careful once the saw is started (obviously) - know your footing (there's often a deeper hole scoured under a strainer and if the water isn't clear you won't know where the edge is until you feel it with your feet. It'll be slippery. Better not to find it with a running chain saw.
Be aware the there may be current acting on the piece you're cutting in addition to gravity. Branch ends will be stuck in sediment on the bottom. Things may shift in unexpected directions and saws can get pinched in surprising ways. Have a bow saw and use it as your first choice when possible.

Get your slash pile well above the high-water mark so it doesn't get washed in during the next flood and create a bigger problem next time.

It would probably be very wise to not make such a pile on private lands and to have the owner's permission prior to starting. I don't know how the liability laws run on this, but I bet having someone they don't know the skills of wading with a chain saw might make many property owners a tad nervous. Another argument for the bow saw. Its safer and perhaps the job could even be done unnoticed.

Clear no more than is necessary for passage.

Not rocket science. Its mostly just safety and common sense.
Hope this helps a little...

So, what’s under the wood that makes
it worth cleaning? I doubt that any north or middle GA creek runs 100cfs very often and still gets plugged with wood. However, my personal minimum for running small creeks is 200 cfs, and 300 is better.

I believe that the page you reference
does exist, but even when I click on the whole link, I am not finding it.

The AW position was affected by Trout Unlimited objections and by wilderness river rules. Speaking as an AW member (for some years now), I will say that we will remove any wood that is a hazard.

Around the country, many canoe outfitters saw wood out of streams in order to keep their businesses going. Fishing groups saw wood out of streams so that they can float and fish.

Trout Unlimited, in cooperation with the USFS, often puts wood barriers IN streams to create pools for trout fishing. Most of these barriers are no problem at high water, and I don’t mind them as long as they are not extensive.

Out west, private landowners with trout fishing interests often make rock dams to create pools. Some of these dams are not only an impediment to boat passage, but have so much water passing through them that they might be a danger to swimmers.

There is no easy answer to the issue of river modification. I take it on a case-by-case basis. If someone wants to clear a local creek to make it useful for paddling, that’s ok with me, as long as they don’t make it worse downstream.

Stand upstream of what you’re cutting
and cut small firewood size pieces. 12"-16" pieces tend to float thru and not create a strainer. If they get caught in a strainer downstream, they’re easy to move. And someone can use them for firewood.

another link

Do Not Remove Log ↔ More OK to Remove Log

Ecological Considerations

Sand, Gravel, Cobble Banks ↔ Bedrock Banks

Floodplain Adjacent to Channel ↔ Cliffs Adjacent to Channel

Log Trapping Sediment ↔ Log Above Water Level

Log is Large and Long ↔ Log is Small and Short

Stream has Endangered Species ↔ No Endangered Species

No Riparian Vegetation ↔ Dense Riparian Vegetation

Heavily Impacted Watershed ↔ Intact Forested Watershed

Paddling Considerations

Log is Obvious ↔ Log is Hidden

Log is Avoidable While Paddling ↔ Log is Unavoidable

Log is Easily Portaged ↔ Log is Impossible to Portage

Log Unlikely to Entrap Paddler ↔ Log Likely to Entrap Paddler

Log in Seldom Paddled Reach ↔ Log in Popular Reach

Class V ↔ Class II/III

Wilderness ↔ Urban

Cut from the upstream side.

Starting your clearing at the downstream end of your section and working your way up helps also. The little stuff that inevitably gets into the stream then has a clear path out rather than getting clogged and creating a mini-log jam. Otherwise the job gets progressively more confused with captured floating debris as you go down.

To save time I usually try to take pretty good size limbs and such if I can, rope them out, and then work worthwhile pieces up into firewood-size bits on shore where you can see what you’re doing and the footing is better. Safer that way.

If your saw swallows water - and do try to avoid that - drain it quickly through the spark plug hole. (So you’ll want to have a plug wrench along.)

Building Water Trails - Blue InfraStruct

– Last Updated: May-10-10 4:17 PM EST –

BLUE is the new green - as in water trails
I've done a lot of woody debris removal making the
Shiawassee River State Heritage Water Trail in Michigan
Landowners can be problematic, so often they need "education" and persuading.
If they don't budge - cut standing in the water, a public navigable waterway.
No one owns both banks and they don't own 100 % of the width.
Offering the cut tree to the landowner for firewood, crafts, etc., works on occasion.
Proper planning and it's usually over in 10 minutes, commando style...nuff said.
Modifying the course, flow and direction of any creek, stream, river is bad.
State and federal agencies really, really frown on that sort of activity.
As long as you don't clear cut everything along the riverbanks indiscriminately,
i.e. merely cutting a "slot" to along passage of canoe and kayak, very few agencies mind.
Major industrial machinery stirring up silt and sediment mess up the environment quickly.
We aren't allowed to use combustion engine driven winches, backhoes, tractors, etc.
Pure ol' muscle power, or some z-drag mechanical advantage is allowed for crazy stuff.
When an entire tree of large diameter falls, we chainsaw cut it in pieces and use
"dead man" type anchors, sometimes called "duckbill type" anchors to cable tie the logs into the riverbank.


This allows a bit of fish habitat and stabilizes the riverbanks from erosion.
Use of extreme large saws with very long blades allows cutting into water
while the engine still has some air among all the spray and chips.
Extreme caution needed standing in current, on silt river bottom, running chainsaw !
Woody Debris Management on rivers, creeks, streams

Also handy on occasion is an "Underwater Chainsaw" no kidding, really.


Video of its use

We attach ropes to the handles- thread it under the water, getting under the log-
and then proceed to manually saw the log freeing the obstruction.
It's a major pain in the ass doing stuff manually,
but it makes the river safer for novices and families in canoes.
Great for quickie cuts and it fits almost anywhere - my survival equipment
ALL re-fueling and oiling of chainsaws to be done in canoe or on riverbank
- please no pretty rainbows of petroleum products in the waterways.
Be prepared to sharpen blades often, and a dropped chainsaw will hydro-lock
When water - a fairly incompressible liquid gets in the cylinder,
you can't pull the starter cord anymore - time to take it all apart, yuck

Willi Gutmann

Yeah, case by case basis.