Brook trout habitat restoration in the Potomac Headwaters


The Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia is drained by a portion of the mighty Potomac River, and has abundant trout resources. The region is graced with Karst, limestone geology that provides streams with cold buffered spring water. The panhandle boasts three intact native brook trout fisheries located within the Monongahela and the George Washington National Forests, and the area is a destination fishery for anglers throughout the East. TU is working to restore degraded riparian and in stream habitat to reconnect isolated headwater populations of brook trout back to the main stem rivers to increase size of the native fish and strengthen these populations.

In 2016, specific goals include:

•Reconnect 7 miles of headwater spring sources by mitigating three barriers to aquatic organism passage on brook trout streams.

•Restore 3 miles of in-stream habitat using rock and logs to create pools, runs and stabilize eroding stream banks. Restore 100 acres of riparian habitat by installing 10 miles of agricultural exclusion fencing and riparian plantings. 

•Protect 100 acres of riparian habitat and 1 mile of in-stream habitat through perpetual conservation easements.

•Sustain: Engage 350 volunteers in stream monitoring and riparian restoration projects.

•Science: Collect baseline and/or long term monitoring data on water quality and fish communities in 30 streams.


TU is working with landowners to improve the fishing opportunities on private and public lands. Staff works to restore riparian habitats by installing agricultural exclusion fence, alternative water sources, armored stream crossings and tree plantings. These services help stabilize eroding stream banks and keep water temperatures cold, while still providing access to water for livestock and landowners. Staff also works with landowners to install in stream habitat restoration projects which stabilize eroding stream banks and enhance in stream habitat necessary for spawning, seeking refuge and foraging. Structures such as perched culverts and low water bridges, serving as barriers to brook trout passage and dispersal, are being replaced with fish and vehicle passage friendly structures to reconnect streams to headwater sources. Volunteers are engaged in select projects to monitor streams, plant trees, and help spread the TU mission. The program also provides professional level courses to state, federal, and private entities focusing on brook trout stream ecology and restoration.


In 2015, the Potomac Headwaters Home Rivers Initiative team completed the following:

• Restored 2 miles of in-stream habitat, and stabilized 1 mile of eroding stream bank.

•Installed 9 miles of fence to restore and protect 5 miles of in-stream trout habitat and 82 acres of riparian habitat.

•Planted 5,000 live stakes and 1,100 large stock trees engaging over 250 volunteers.

•Re-connected 15 miles of headwater sources by mitigating 3 barriers to aquatic organism passage.

•Re-established a natural flow regime to 1.5 miles of trout stream on public land, which was previously captured and re-routed into a pond.

•Perpetually protected 1.5 miles of trout stream and 200 acres of riparian habitat.

•Collected baseline biological, chemical, and physical data on more than 20 streams in the Potomac Headwaters.

•Installed an in-stream habitat restoration demonstration project, at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, highlighting in-stream restoration techniques used to improve fish habitat, as well as, the federal financial assistance programs available to private landowners to make these projects a reality on private land.  Go check it out, and give us a call! 

•Provided three professional level continuing education courses to state, federal, and non-profit staff focused on trout stream ecology and restoration.



Staff Contact

Author of this Page

Dustin Wichterman


Chesapeake Bay Headwaters
Potomac Headwaters
Cacapon River
Seneca Creek
North Fork of the South Branch Potomac River
South Branch of the Potomac River
West Virginia Eastern Panhandle

Eastern Brook Trout

Brook Trout

Climate Change
Roads + Development
Risks to Fishing 

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