On October 21st, 2023, the Nevada chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, Tuscarora Field Office conducted fencing repairs along Dixie Creek in northeastern Nevada. Most of the fencing repairs required along Dixie Creek stemmed from flooding and high flows that occurred in the spring of 2023 during the spring runoff that damaged fences crossing along the drainage. The high flows damaged approximately ten fence crossings along the lower portion of Dixie Creek and associated side drainages upstream of the confluence of Dixie Creek and the South Fork of the Humboldt River.
Most of the fencing repairs occurred at the livestock exclosures along Dixie Creek that were created in the early 1990’s to allow for more controlled grazing management on public lands. Before the exclosures were created, the grazing along Dixie Creek had limited management and cattle were able to use the entire drainage during the grazing season. These grazing practices lead to significant degradation along Dixie Creek resulting in limited wetland and riparian vegetation communities occurring along the drainage. Drainages that lack the ability to support wetland and riparian vegetation often have a significantly reduced ability to store and slow water creating “flashy” drainages that have a reduced value to both livestock and wildlife. Flashy drainages have a limited value to livestock and wildlife because they have a reduced resiliency to withstand high flow events as well as a reduced ability to provide a reliable water source during dry times of the year.
Photos by Carol Evans
Dixie Creek was no exception. The once perennial drainage had many reaches that became intermittent, livestock and wildlife lost a valuable water source during the critical summer and fall and forage became almost non-existent along the banks. These results are the classic overgrazed scenario which is all too common on many western drainages. However, Dixie Creek was able to benefit from a management change. The exclosures prevented cattle from occupying the drainage all season and allowed the native wetland and riparian vegetation to regain a foothold within the areas they use to occupy. Fast forward almost thirty years and this reach of Dixie Creek has undergone a radical transformation from the dry gravel bed that once existed. This portion of Dixie Creek once again maintains perennial flows and supports a robust community of willow, meadow grasses, and other important forage for wildlife; as well as providing a reliable oasis in an otherwise parched landscape. Beaver have recolonized this portion of the drainage and their ponds continue to slow flows, store water, and even for the first time in many years, the State fish of Nevada, the Lahontain Cutthroat Trout, was documented as having the ability to subsist in the deep, cold water contained in these beaver ponds.
The work done by the Nevada chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Bureau of Land Management help to ensure that Dixie Creek continues to be a productive and thriving environment for wildlife, livestock, and the community of Elko County, Nevada for generations to come.
Nevada BHA would like to extend a special thanks to Carol Evans for aiding in project coordination, and for her many years of advocacy and work on behalf of Dixie Creek. Learn more about Carol's work on Dixie Creek at the video below: