Bozeman Creek Enhancement Project

The Good

The Bad

The Ugly

Running through the heart of the city of Bozeman, Bozeman Creek has been narrowed and straightened, its banks armored with rock and concrete, and its riparian vegetation removed or reduced to a thin green line. Downtown, the creek runs underground beneath streets and buildings. Elsewhere in the urban core, the creek is girdled by parking lots and other developments.

Localized flooding occurs routinely. Numerous low bridges cause backwater effects during high water events and present the risk of significant flooding if blocked by debris.  The creek’s water quality suffers from pollutants in stormwater run-off and the fishery is far below its potential. Public access to the creek is minimal. Bozeman Creek in its current condition is a marginalized and under-appreciated resource with huge potential to be a central asset to the community.

The Bozeman Creek Enhancement Project is being undertaken by a partnership of community groups, city and agency staff, and individuals to improve the value of Bozeman Creek as a community asset. The Bozeman Creek Enhancement Committee (BCEC) includes representatives from the Bozeman Parks and Recreation Department; Downtown Bozeman Partnership; Friends of Bogert Park; Gallatin Local Water Quality District; Gallatin Valley Land Trust; Greater Gallatin Watershed Council; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Trout Unlimited’s Madison-Gallatin Chapter; and professional firms and landowners. The BCEC receives planning and technical assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers and Trails Program.

The project is focused on the six miles of the creek that flow through the jurisdictional boundaries of the city of Bozeman to the creek’s confluence with the East Gallatin River. From its headwaters in the Gallatin National Forest through the agricultural lands to south of the city, the creek is in relatively good shape. Significant resource impacts begin as the creek enters the residential areas on the edge of town and greatly worsen as the creek flows through the urban, then industrial, areas.

Bozeman Creek Enhancement Plan

Through a two-year process of collaborative planning and substantive public involvement, the Bozeman Creek Enhancement Committee worked to develop a long-term enhancement plan for the creek, while simultaneously working to identify and implement priority early-action projects.  In 2012, the Bozeman City Commission voted to adopt the Bozeman Creek Enhancement Plan as official city policy.


BCEC envisions Bozeman Creek as a focal point of our quality of life, with a healthy and continuous stream corridor.  We are a community with a culture of stewardship and awareness of the creek and its values, and we support:

  • A naturally functioning and connected creek corridor with healthy riparian areas and floodplains
  • An aquatic environment that supports a vigorous plant and animal community
  • Clean water for people and wildlife
  • A safe and beautiful recreational corridor with ample public access
  • Integrating this valued asset into community planning and design, contributing to a vibrant downtown.

Project Goals

Goal 1:  Foster broad awareness of and appreciation for Bozeman Creek, leading to a strong community stewardship ethic.

Goal 2:  Restore the natural processes necessary for a functioning creek ecosystem.

Goal 3:  Improve water quality to support aquatic life and primary contact recreation.

Goal 4:  Provide ample public access and appropriate recreational opportunities along the creek corridor while ensuring resource protection.

Current Projects

Bozeman Creek at Bogert Park Enhancement Project

One of the first projects the BCEC has undertaken is to improve the ecology and the recreational value of Bozeman Creek at Bogert Park. This site was chosen due to strong community support, public land ownership, and a highly visible location near downtown. Confluence Consulting and Applied Geomorphology provided BCEC with pro bono assistance during the summer and fall of 2011 to develop a set of conceptual alternatives and to assess the benefits, risks, limitations, and relative costs of each. Public comment was solicited at an open house in November 2011 and through an online survey the following winter. In response to public comment, a preferred alternative was developed that combined the best-supported elements of several of the proposals, which avoided expensive infrastructure alterations and minimized conflicts with adjacent landowners.

A design team was contracted in March of 2012 to develop preliminary designs for the Bogert project guided by the preferred alternative. Project elements included channel and floodplain design, corridor revegetation, utilities relocation, the addition of trails and recreational features, and footbridge replacement. Confluence Consulting, TD&H Engineering, Intrinsik Architecture, Nishkian Monks Engineering, and Design 5 completed this work in June 2012, and produced a Preliminary Design Report with drawings to illustrate design concepts. This work was funded by a Park Improvement Grant from the City of Bozeman and by the Friends of Bogert Park.

From 2012 to 2014, the BCEC wrote a number of grants and raised over $660,000 to complete design work and build the Bogert project.  The grants were written by the BCEC for the City of Bozeman, which then took over lead responsibility for the project once funding was in place.  In December 2013, the City contracted with the design team to complete the project design (view the final design plans), obtain the required permits, and produce a bid package for construction

The project was put out to bid in 2016, and Highland Construction Services was selected.  Construction began in September, 2016 and halted in early December with much of the project completed, including channel reconstruction and bridge installation. Work on completing the remaining elements, including a flood channel, stream access site, trails, and riparian revegetation, will resume when weather allows in  the Spring of 2017.

Eroded bank at pavillion

Eroded bank at pavilion

Restoration underway

Restoration underway

Hydraulic Modeling

Allied Engineering Services was contracted in October 2011 to develop a Hydraulic Model of Bozeman Creek from Story Street to Peach Street, the reach of the creek that has been most heavily impacted. The hydraulic model will serve as a planning, design and permitting tool for considering opportunities and constraints for channel and habitat enhancement projects in the modeled reach. Allied completed this project in May 2012. The model was instrumental in developing the preliminary design for the Bozeman Creek Enhancement Project at Bogert Park.  This work was funded by grants from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Montana Trout Foundation.

Streambank Stabilization

In December 2011, BCEC assisted two neighboring landowners in the northeast neighborhood to stabilize the creek banks along their properties. The project involved removing slabs of concrete, reshaping bank contours, installing erosion control fabric and seeding the disturbed site with native grasses. In the spring of 2012, the project was completed by installing native riparian shrubs and trees. Project costs were defrayed by a grant from the Northern Rocky Mountain RC&D, equipment donations, and volunteer labor. Other landowners interested in this kind of assistance may contact the BCEC Coordinator.

Downtown Bozeman Creek Park(ing) Project

BCEC is assisting project sponsors—the Downtown Bozeman Partnership and Bozeman Parking Commission—in redesigning the city’s public parking lot adjacent the creek at the corner of Rouse Avenue and Babcock Street. The three objectives of this project are to enhance Bozeman Creek and create a creekside park, reconfigure public parking to meet code and improve efficiency and safety, and mitigate on-site stormwater impacts. A consulting design team led by Intrinsik Architecture, contracted in September 2011, produced a number of alternative conceptual designs. Public comment was solicited at a meeting in February 2012 as well as through an online survey. In the final report, “Downtown Bozeman Creek Park(ing) Project,” the consulting team recommends a preferred conceptual design.

MDT’s North Rouse Avenue Reconstruction Project

MDT’s Rouse Avenue reconstruction project, currently planned for 2015, presents a significant opportunity to improve the natural function, recreational value, and aesthetic appeal of a 650- to 1000-foot reach of Bozeman Creek located at the front gate to downtown Bozeman. MDT’s current plans do nothing to improve the existing armored and channelized condition of the creek. At a minimum, properties already planned to be acquired for the project should be dedicated as public creekside parks, with channel and riparian restoration. Pending the outcome of MDT’s right-of-way negotiations, there may be additional opportunities for creating a longer greenway and moving the creek out of its current position bordering the roadway surface. BCEC will continue to monitor this project as it evolves and will investigate opportunities and advocate for creek enhancement in discussions with MDT, city commissioners, and staff.