A major habitat improvement project is underway in the Little Lehigh Creek area, the crown jewel of trout fishing

Little Lehigh Creek is one of the Lehigh Valley’s crown jewels when it comes to wild trout fishing, with more than nine miles of top-class wild brown trout waters along its length. In addition, the creek is well stocked with hatchery-raised fish, attracting many anglers each spring.

One location that has historically not been very productive for holding good numbers of fish — at least after catching most of the trout — is the stretch of Little Lehigh Parkway upstream of Allentown’s famous Li’l-Le-Hi Trout Nursery. Now, the partnership aims to solve this problem by implementing a major habitat restoration project, which will benefit both trout and the anglers who enjoy targeting them.

For decades, the construction of a dam south of Fish Hatchery Road has slowed water flow, resulting in severe siltation and increased water temperatures over the years. Although the dam, located off Keystone Road, was removed several years ago, the stretch remains fairly flat, with little quality habitat for aquatic life.

A few years ago, the Little Lehigh Chapter of Trout Unlimited was looking for ways in which it could increase awareness of the creek, as well as increase interest and membership in its chapter, so it decided the time was right to undertake an important custom restoration project. Although Little Lehigh TU has done some cleanup projects on its namesake schedule before, it has been some time since it implemented a major habitat improvement project, according to Little Lehigh TU Chapter President Dan Dow.

“We identified two places, and this was one of them because the old dam was there,” Dow said. “We know it’s kind of flat and silty. You can’t wade in it because when you get off the bank, you’re almost knee-deep in the mud and silt. That (area) kind of crushes the aquatic life, which means there won’t be a lot of fish there.”

In addition to Little Lehigh TU, the other major partner in the project is the Lehigh County Conservation District (LCCD), which has led the majority of the project planning efforts in the past two years. Earlier this year, LCCD and Little Lehigh TU received a $10,000 grant from the Lehigh Valley Greenways Conservation Landscape – funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – to help cover most of the project expenses, with additional funding coming from Trout Unlimited, PA Grow Greener and Coldwater Heritage Partnership.

Then, in August, a Maryland-based resource restoration group began the heavy lifting of stabilizing the creek banks and adding habitat structures along a 730-foot section of the waterway.

According to Dow, a modified clay sill was created along a bend in the creek to help stabilize erosion, direct water flow and provide overhead cover for fish. In addition, a number of reflectors have been installed on both banks, and several rocks have been placed randomly in the riverbed, all in an attempt to make the stretch more hospitable to aquatic life.

“It will take two years to get all the silt out of there,” Dow said. “But creating all these deflections, randomizing them and directing the current downstream a little bit more, will help move all that silt around. It will also help cool and oxygenate the water. Cleaning the bottom will also be better for aquatic insects, which in turn will be better for the fish.”

Caitlin Mercier, watershed specialist at Other work to be done includes planting a native meadow this fall and native trees and shrubs next spring with the city of Allentown and volunteers, the Lehigh County Conservation District said.

“All these practices (being implemented) will help restore natural flow patterns in the stream, stabilize the bank to reduce further erosion and sedimentation in the stream channel and increase access to the floodplain, which will help mitigate the effects of floods.

“A buffer zone filled with local farms will help control stormwater runoff to reduce the impacts of nonpoint source pollution downstream. These practices benefit not only fish, but other aquatic organisms, birds and wildlife, and support the full ecological function of the area.”

Although the Little Lehigh project is led by Little Lehigh TU and LCCD, a number of other partners were involved including the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, which designed the project and also assisted with construction; Allentown Parks and Recreation Department; And the national trout are unlimited.

A marketing professional who has done consulting work with Trout Unlimited nationally, as well as managing marketing for the non-profit Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Dow has called on a group of fisheries scientists within his network to help document and analyze the work being done with the goal of accurately determining how successful the efforts are. Restoration. In addition, the volunteer Little Lehigh Watershed Stewards will assist with tree and shrub planting and cleanup work along the Little Lehigh extension in the future.

Mercier points out that the matter is not limited to fishermen only, but to everyone who will benefit from the project.

“Little Lehigh Creek is an important drinking water source for the city of Allentown, so any effort to improve surface water quality or enhance groundwater infiltration is beneficial to the community,” she said. “The public benefits from improved water quality, reduced flood and stormwater impacts, and increased recreational value.

“The primary goal of the conservation area is always to improve water quality and habitat, but there are also secondary impacts to these projects that help support and enhance the economy, infrastructure, health and safety.”

Looking back, Dow said he is exceptionally proud of how the project was created and the positive impact it will have in the future on trout, anglers and everyone who enjoys the creek.

“The partners have all worked well together. We have met regularly and now have a good relationship. We have already started talking about future ideas.” “I really hope this starts to bring some interest to Little Lehigh because it is such a unique and special piece of water to a lot of people. “He deserves a lot more attention than he gets.”

Trout and the anglers who pursue them will benefit from a habitat restoration project undertaken by the Lehigh County Conservation District, Little Lehigh Trout Unlimited and their partners on the Lehigh Parkway off Keystone Road.

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