Using New “Skyline” to Improve Fish Habitat at Elk Falls Canyon

Project Year: 2016-2017

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Elk Falls Canyon: BCCF

Project Lead

British Columbia Conservation Foundation


Coastal Region


Project Type

Habitat-Based Actions

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Campbell Salmonid Action Plan

Project ID


Elk Falls Canyon Spawning Gravel Bulk Delivery: Year 1

With the new bulk gravel delivery system (installed in 2016) in Elk Falls Provincial Park, this project aims to provide funding for the first year of major gravel additions to the Upper Canyon Reach of Campbell River. Using the new delivery system, approximately 250-300 cubic metres of gravel will be added to the first pool tail-out. This gravel will provide valuable spawning habitat for all species of salmon and trout. Also, over time as more gravel is added to the canyon, downstream habitat will become more gravel-rich, further increasing the spawning capacity. Given the infrastructure investment by FWCP and others, this is a logical step forward in mitigating the gravel recruitment issue in this system.

Short-term benefits to fish habitat include the direct, and instant, benefit of up to 300 cubic metres of new spawning gravel added to the upper canyon. This gravel will provide necessary spawning habitat (up to 600 square metres) for adult salmon and trout in an area currently nearly devoid of spawning habitat. Depending on frequency and magnitude of spill events from JHT, gravel will get washed down the canyon reach, where it will settle out in other areas and can be further utilized. The canyon currently has very little gravel suitable for spawning as a result of the JHT facility blocking any natural downstream movement of gravel. As seen previously, the added gravel will be used by numerous species of salmon and trout. It has been observed that over 90 per cent of the gravel placed at this site during past helicopter placements is used by spawning salmon (K. Pellett, BCCF Bio. Pers. Comm) usually within months of implementation.

Final Report: Executive Summary

Following construction of the John Hart dam on the upper Campbell River in 1953, natural recruitment of spawning substrates in the Elk Falls Canyon and the lower river was significantly reduced, leading to “gravel poor” habitat in those reaches. Increasing spawning habitat and egg to fry survival for the remnant population steelhead and Chinook are important steps in the recovery of these stocks in the Campbell River watershed.

Completed in March 2016 funded through FWCP, RFCPP, CRSF and Living Rivers, a gravel delivery system was built in Elk Falls Provincial Park to deliver washed spawning gravel into the first pool tail-out, below Elk Falls. The infrastructure, as built, allows for approximately 0.5 m3 of spawning gravel to be dumped at a time using an overhead skyline spanning the canyon. A gravel staging area was selected, located adjacent to the existing footbridge that crosses the wood stave penstocks on BC Hydro property, and accessible using tandem axle gravel trucks. Tracked skidsteers (aka Bobcats) were used to transport the gravel from the staging area through the park, using both existing pedestrian and new trails, to the skyline and bucket. The skyline bucket is loaded directly by the skidsteer and then lowered out over the canyon and released.

Between August 8, and 12, 2016 approximately 200 m3 of graded and washed spawning gravel was delivered into the Elk Falls Canyon, the largest single gravel project at this site since construction of the John Hart Dam in 1952. Costs per unit to deliver the gravel was approximately 60% less than the previously used helicopter method. The gravel pad produced was used by dozens of adult Chinook, Pink, Chum and Coho salmon in the fall of 2016.

This project addressed directly two items in the 2011 FWCP Salmonid Action Plan: ‘Continue augmentation of gravels in Elk Falls Canyon’ (Priority 1), and ‘Maintenance and monitoring of existing gravel pads in Elk Falls canyon and the lower Campbell River’ (Priority 1). The primary target species for this project is Chinook and Steelhead, both cited in FWCP 2011 as the “highest priority species in the Lower Campbell” Total cost of this project was about $68,000 and was funded largely by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP).

Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database