Stabilized Sandy Creek Riverbank

Restores Fish Habitat and Reduces Runoff

Planting trees and placing boulders along Sandy Creek in upstate New York has reduced runoff and restored fish and wildlife habitat.


Sandy Creek in upstate New York flows from near Watertown, N.Y., down into Lake Ontario. The stream had been experiencing severe erosion issues, with areas as large as a foot across sliding off and falling into the water. With so much sediment in the water, newly spawned fish eggs were having trouble developing. With funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative the Jefferson County, N.Y., Soil and Water Conservation District was able to stabilize the bank of Sandy Creek. The county used trees that had been downed by high winds to support and re-shape the riverbank. Tree roots angled into the water provide a safe spot for fish to lay their eggs. As newly planted willow saplings grow, their roots will support the riverbank. Large boulders have been placed strategically throughout the stream to create a variety of habitats—some shallow areas and some deep—while also redirecting the force of the stream away from the shore and towards the center of the river.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Erosion
  • Sediment build up
  • Poor fish egg habitat


Streambank stabilized with vegetation

Stabilization of Sandy Creek involved reconstructing the streambank using willow tree cuttings and boulders. Credit: Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Results and Accomplishments

Stabilizing the banks of Sandy Creek has restored the shoreline and nearshore ecosystem in the stream, while also filtering runoff from the land before it enters Lake Ontario. Placing boulders in the river will provide a variety of habitats for fish and will direct water towards the center of the stream to reduce erosion. Fish now have a safe, well aerated place to lay their eggs, thanks to trees and tree roots that were embedded in the streambank to provide stability.