Trout need only a few resources to survive, but they are very specific resources. They need clean cold water, food, places to hide and clean gravel in which to lay their eggs. The South Saluda River in Greenville County, South Carolina had potential because it is a headwater river in the mountains, starting in a completely protected watershed. The problem was that the river had been straightened to accommodate a road installation many years ago. The river did not have natural bends, and included few of the ripples, pools and runs that trout need. To the trout, the wide flat river was akin to an open desert. The river ran straight and silent.
Partners for Trout was a coalition of universities, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies (including U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Greenville, Pickens and Oconee Counties). Its primary function was to protect the trout habitat that remained and restore some of what had been lost. This group identified a ½ mile stretch of the South Saluda and teamed with landholders willing to restore trout habitat and allow public access for fishing.
Ten cross vanes were installed in the river to accomplish the goal. These simple rock structures channel the water to the center of the river, increasing the water velocity, which wallows out a hole directly downstream of the vane. This hole, sometimes six feet deep in a two-foot deep river, gives trout a cool place to hide. The river flow in the center is faster but the flow near the banks is slowed, and this slowing allows gravel to drop out and form gravel beds that are perfect for spawning. The cross vanes create a variety of habitats for all of the river critters, which in turn makes more food for the trout. The river now bubbles and gurgles over the cross vanes, brimming with life.
The landowners for the project allow open access to fishermen and the DNR stocks trout on the property periodically. That stretch of river is now bustling with fishers, young and old. The project has made the locals proud and enhanced the tourism in the area. As for the fish, DNR has found evidence that the native trout are actually spawning and the macro-invertebrate populations are increasing. The entire ecosystem is full of abundance due to a little knowledgeable tweaking of the river.