Streamside Forests

Upcoming Shade Your Streams Workshop!!!

Looking for something “Green” to do on the first day of spring this year?  If so, you are in luck!

On March 21, 2015 from 10:30 am – 2:00pm, the Watauga County Cooperative Extension and Watauga River Partners are hosting a native plant demonstration and give-away for residents in the High Country.  All are welcome, but must register in order to receive free plants and lunch.   In partnership with the Appalachian Water Project, a joint venture between Wine to Water and Appalachian Mountain Brewery (AMB), workshop participants can walk away with tips on how to care for their stream/river, free native vegetation (live stakes), and a happy belly.

Across Western North Carolina, streambank erosion—and the resulting build-up of sediment in stream channels—is having negative impacts on water quality and habitat for “critters”, including trout that live in the streams.   Live stakes are an effective way to reduce streambank erosion.   At this point you may be wondering, “What is a live stake?”  It is a long hardwood cutting from a native shrub, adapted to moist conditions, planted outdoors without rooting hormones.   In this area, we use silky dogwood, elderberry, ninebark, silky willow, and buttonbush.

Green Creeks 2

These woody plants have extensive root systems that stabilize the soil on stream banks during rainfall and high water flow.  The shade produced by the shrubs help maintain the cooler temperatures that our mountain fish and aquatic life need to survive, while the leaves help provide habitat and food for insects and fish. (Leaves fall into the stream, aquatic insects eat and live in the leaves, trout eat the insects) “Shading Your Stream” with vegetation is really important because it acts as a filter to prevent sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria, pathogens, and heavy metals from entering our rivers.

The event will be held at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center where experts from the New River Conservancy, the Watauga River Partners, and Watauga County Cooperative Extension will share tips on stream care and available programs that can help landowners.  If you are unfamiliar with how to install livestakes, we will demonstrate by planting a 20ft section of Kraut Creek during the day.

Interested in participating and receiving free plants for your creek bank?  Please call the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center at (828) 264-3061, or email  The workshop will begin at 10:30 am at 252 Poplar Grove Rd in Boone.

“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.”

                                                                                                            —- Wendell Berry

Helping Landowners with their Streamside Forests

Another name for the streamside forest is a riparian buffer. Biparian buffers are zones along a stream or riverbank where vegetation grows. Trees, shrubs, and other grasses help the river in many ways. Here are a few of the most important reasons to have vegetation along a waterway.

Roots provide bank stability by holding the soil in place, which reduces sediment in the river.

Vegetation provides shade to help moderate stream temperature for trout and other species

Plants intercept pollution by “acting like a sponge” to absorb extra fertilizer, pesticides, sediment, etc.

The buffers provide a habitat for aquatic insects that eat the leaves and fish that eat the insects, as well as a canopy for birds and other wildlife.

Read about trees and shrubs that do well along a stream in the High Country.