Upper Madison Tributary Project- Tubifex Summary by Stream


  • The West Fork Madison River- The West Fork Madison River is a mess due to excessive sediment and manure loading. The West Fork offers no escape from Tubifex and it may be more the problem for the upper Madison fish than is the mainstem. The West Fork near the mouth has medium worm densities and Tubifex ranges from 32 to 61% in 2 samples (69 and 219). This condition appears to continue even above the Elk River. At the upper site, however only immature, but probable Tubifex were taken (42% of the total oligochaetes) in the fall sample (220). There are possible natural impacts by a large warm spring, the West Fork Swimming Hole. This spring, like many other warm springs, has no Tubifex, but it could alter the West Fork to favor Tubifex. I have seen this before. The West Fork above the Elk River has Ilyodrilus templetoni present, which is almost certainly due to the West Fork Swimming Hole. The invertebrate community in the West Fork is pretty simple at the mouth, but much improved above the Elk River. Much more work is needed on the West Fork. Early spring samples will give a better picture of the worms here.


  • The Elk River- This small river shows serious signs of excessive sediment loading during the summer, but a very large sample (229) near the mouth took no possible Tubifex. The community there does not appear to be one that would allow Tubifex, at least for now. This river may be near the limit of how much sediment loading it can carry before more serious impacts are seen.


  • Freezeout Creek- A single large sample (235) near the mouth took huge numbers of enchytraeids, but no sign of Tubifex. The community is very rich and appears to be more productive than many of the areas streams.


  • Soap Creek- This stream showed direct signs of grazing impacts, but a big sample (237) at the mouth found no signs of Tubifex. The community also appears in good shape.


  • Gazelle Creek- This stream had small amounts of extra sediment loading, but no signs of Tubifex in the fall sample (225) above the West Fork Road. The invertebrate community is a rich one.


  • Papoose Creek- I went upstream to the national forest boundary for this sample (227). This is a colder, less productive stream with a rich community and no sign of Tubifex. The lower section of this stream has some irrigation and grazing impacts, but Tubifex is either unlikely or confined to the lowest section.


  • Standard Creek- I sampled this stream fairly high at the lowest bridge on the on the Forest Service Road. This road is normally closed to protect the environment, but was open for logging on my October visit. This sample (234) had no signs of Tubifex and demonstrated a rich community. I will try to get a sample near the mouth this spring.


  • Squaw Creek- A big sample (239) from near the mouth had no sign of Tubifex and revealed a normal rich community.


  • Horse Creek- I took 2 samples here with the kind permission of the Sun West Ranch. These samples (251 and 258) were far enough apart to be independent, but too close to expect any differences. I found 1 possible Tubifex among the 168 worms examined on slides. It was from the second, or upper site on the stream. The community here is very rich and I do not think the trace of possible Tubifex represents much whirling disease risk. The 2 samples were almost identical for worms, except for 2 unique species, the possible Tubifex at the upper site and the rare Haplotaxis at the lower site. Haplotaxis normally indicates groundwater influence. These 2 samples had 85% overlap in the non-worm species with some indication that the upper site had more undercut and vegetated banks. The community also indicates colder conditions than many of the other Tributaries. The lowest part of this stream was being heavily grazed in mid November. It seems likely that winter grazing might have smaller impacts than summer grazing.


  • Moose Creek- I sampled this creek near the mouth on October 11. This sample (223) had 1 positive and 2 probable Tubifex among 76 worms examined closely. The total oligochaete density was much lower and the non-worm community was about a third less rich in species that the other tributaries in the area. The community, was still not all that bad and it did not appear to be a typical Tubifex community. I followed up on this sample with a second one (259) further upstream on November 12, with the kind permission of the landowner. Here the problem was obvious. Upstream of the narrow canyon leading to the mouth of Moose Creek there is a large flats area with extensive grazing areas. The sample here contained over a third Tubifex (64 worms closely examined) and both the worm community and the non-worm community were perfectly typical of Tubifex positive sites. It seems that while a trace of possible Tubifex may be no big deal, small amounts of probable Tubifex and especially positive (mature) Tubifex should always be followed up. It also now seems that upstream Tubifex make their presence known for considerable distances downstream so downstream samples are a good place to start. If this sounds familiar, it is the same condition as at Little Prickly Pear Creek and others that I have not yet described. I recommend no fisheries work at Moose Creek, except for Tubifex reduction experiments.


  • Hyde Creek- A single large sample (238) near the Wall Creek Station took a single possible Tubifex in 56 worms closely examined. The stream shows signs of sediment loading, but the community is only little depressed. A major Tubifex population seems unlikely unless conditions worsen.


  • Ruby Creek- A large sample (232) above the West side Road had 7 possible Tubifex among the 52 worms that were closely examined. Total oligochaete numbers and the non-worm community are depressed and signs of excessive sediment and manure loading were obvious. A follow up sample (256) from further upstream found no sign of Tubifex and a much richer non-worm community. There was, however even greater signs of excessive sediment and manure loading. For now I would suggest that any fisheries work on this stream include increased stream protection.
    7 NOV 1996, updated on 5 JAN 1996 D.L. Gustafson
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