Restoring the Kennebago River

November 30, 2022

The Kennebago watershed supports one of the US's most resilient, self-sustaining wild Eastern Brook Trout populations. The presence of cold, well-oxygenated surficial groundwater combined with high elevation creates a quality habitat that Brook Trout require to thrive. Eastern Brook Trout are essential indicators of New England's long-term forest and aquatic ecosystem health.

RLHT, in partnership with the USFWS, Trout Unlimited, and MDIFW, has begun an ambitious restoration project on the upper Kennebago river and its tributaries.


A network of roads crisscrosses the watershed as the river and its tributaries wind toward Cupsuptic Lake. Often, culverts at these crossings are undersized, in poor condition, or perched above the stream surface, creating barriers to the passage of aquatic organisms, including Eastern Brook Trout.


Replacing these barriers is one of the first steps to reconnecting and restoring miles of critical Brook Trout spawning, rearing, and thermal refuge habitat. In a changing climate, these fish need access to deep, cold lakes and tributaries that offer asylum from critically high-water temperatures.

fish, underwater, stream-387160.jpg
Brook Trout
Brook Trout Habitat

RLHT completed a survey of all crossings on our land in the Kennebago watershed in October. RLHT staff and a USFWS river restoration specialist took detailed measurements of each culvert to determine if they were candidates for removal. As a result of this survey, the crew identified a total of 10 crossings as barriers to aquatic organism passage. The survey determined the final design for the installation of bridges.


The new bridges constructed out of concrete materials will allow for the passage of aquatic organisms, emulate natural stream channels, have a longer lifespan than standard steel culverts, and be less prone to washing out from extreme rain events or spring run-off.


Bridge construction will begin in the summer of 2023 and reconnect the upstream habitat on Otter Brook, Sol Brook, and two other unnamed tributaries.


A sawyer crew with Trout Unlimited completed a large wood addition project on Otter Brook and Norton Brook. The introduction of felling large wood into streams provides several vital ecological functions. It gives complex structure and adequate cover for trout, trapping organic material in the stream on which macroinvertebrates feed. It restores floodplain connectivity, and contact with cold groundwater creates scour pools, catch and deposits sediment, and more.


Pending the replacement of culverts, the further wood addition projects will continue into 2023.

Learn about our Kennebago Headwaters Project


For Articles Inquiries

Jason Latham

Jason Latham

Natural Resource Specialist

More Watersheds News