AW releases recreational guide for stream modification projects

Posted: 03/11/2012
By: Kevin Colburn

Stream channels are modified to meet a wide range of social and ecological goals. Many small-scale projects that involve adding wood and rock to rivers and their banks are aimed at improving fish habitat or protecting riparian property. Other projects are much larger in scale, such as those aimed at restoring a functional river channel in sites previously impacted by dams, mining, development, or other industrial-scale impacts. Whitewater paddlers, and AW, are often involved in negotiating and advocating for these projects.


While most stream modification projects have well-defined primary ecological or engineering goals, (often secondary) recreational goals are seldom integrated into project design and implementation. Integrating recreational goals and safety into projects can foster public support for projects, encourage recreational use and stewardship, and reduce the likelihood of avoidable accidents.

American Whitewater saw the need to share the general river-safety knowledge of the paddling community with stream channel modification practitioners to help foster safer projects with broader support. This guide was principally written to inform a restoration plan for Washinton State's Sullivan Creek which will soon benefit from a dam removal, but we also see it being applied to hurricane clean-up projects in New England, fish enhancement work in the Southeast, and in many other situations.

The paper aims to offer stream modification practitioners simple advice on how to create projects that meet their primary objectives while ensuring the projects are relatively low-risk and enjoyable for people descending the stream in canoes, kayaks, and rafts. It is intended for use by anyone planning to add or remove material (typically rock and wood) from a stream, or otherwise change a stream's shape or function. We hope the paddling community will help us share resource with people working in the field of stream modification, and find it valuable as an advocacy tool for supporting the restoration, protection, and public enjoyment of rivers and streams.


Download a copy of the Guide from the Document box to the right of this article. Contact kevin(at)americanwhitewater(dot)org for a full-resolution version.

American Whitewater

Ryan Groth

Asheville, NC

Full Profile


Join AW and support river stewardship nationwide!