Holy Ghost River Stewardship Restoration

Post-Tres Lagunas Fire and Flooding Restoration Project for Holy Ghost Canyon, Creek, and Tributaries

Project Area

The project area consists of Holy Ghost Creek, a tributary to the Pecos River, and its surrounding watershed. The project area includes approximately 4,300 feet of Holy Ghost Creek that is publicly accessible for fishing, summer home cabin use, and 80 acres of riparian corridor along the Creek.

Project Description

Principal goals of this project are to restore the form and function of Holy Ghost Creek to pre-fire stable dimensions and to limit additional erosion from the steep tributary channels.

Holy Ghost Canyon alluvial fan after Tres Lagunas Fire
Holy Ghost Canyon alluvial fan after Tres Lagunas Fire

Restoration will limit the amount of sediment entering Holy Ghost Creek and the Pecos River downstream.

Upon completion of the project Holy Ghost Creek is expected to have a stable channel and floodplain as well as improved habitat for fish and other aquatic species.

Excessive sediment transported from the deep tributary channels created by post-fire flooding has been deposited in the floodplain of Holy Ghost Creek at the alluvial fans created by each tributary. Flow from these deep cut tributary channels during flooding events following heavy rains has concentrated the force of the post-fire flood effects on the channel bed of Holy Ghost Creek, causing down-cutting and incision.

The first project objective is to improve stream channel geometry and improve floodplain access at entrenched locations along Holy Ghost Creek. By implementing a restoration design for the creek that will improve stream channel geometry, a measurable improvement in channel width-to-depth and entrenchment ratios will be achieved.

Holy Ghost River Stewardship project - Forest Service site visit
Holy Ghost River Stewardship project – Forest Service site visit

The second project objective is to restore the original floodplain shape and riparian ecology along Holy Ghost Creek. Removal of excess sediment on the floodplain and planting riparian vegetation will result in a measurable improvement in the entrenchment ratio and floodplain riparian vegetation.

The third project objective is to stabilize four of the steep eroding tributaries created by flooding and prevent further deposition of sediment into Holy Ghost Creek. A preliminary site assessment resulted in the identification of many opportunities to re-connect these channels with relic floodplains, capture sediment behind rock arch dams, and use log and rock structures to re-fill these channels with sediment. This work will capture sediment from the eroding slopes of these tributaries and re-fill these channels to their original slope and bed elevation, which will be monitored by cross-sectional surveys.

The fourth project objective is restoration of each tributary alluvial fan.

Holy Ghost River Stewardship project - Restoration site 4
Holy Ghost River Stewardship project – Restoration site 3

The gullied channels through these alluvial fans will be repaired and the fans re-shaped to spread and capture sediment from the eroding slopes above. Each alluvial fan will have a sediment basin at the apex (top) of the fan that will act to capture sediment from the channel above.

Final Design

Design report

holy ghost project just below trib 2
Holy Ghost Restoration Project just below Trib 2

Final Monitoring Report

KRE final project report  

holy ghost post construction at tributary 2
Tributary 2

Project Partners

  • Upper Pecos Watershed Association
  • New Mexico Environment Department
  • Santa Fe National Forest – Pecos Ranger District
  • Keystone Restoration Ecology, Inc
  • Pathfinder Environmental, LLC