A decade later and a basin made better

August 15, 2016

Sandy River Web Feature 7.28.16

2015 was a big year full of accomplishments for The Freshwater Trust in the fight for clean, safe and plentiful waterways. We’ve been sharing these milestones with you through staff stories from our 2015 Annual Report. Here is the next featured report.

The Sandy River Basin holds critical fish habitat for salmon and steelhead; however, fish populations have taken a hit in the last century due to many man-made factors. That’s why The Freshwater Trust has spent nearly a decade in the basin, taking action to improve conditions for fish habitats. And guess what? It’s working.


Majestic. Wild. Lush. Dense. Powerful.

This is how we would describe Oregon’s Salmon River and Still Creek.

We know these waters. We’ve studied them. We’ve protected the native fish that call them home.

The Freshwater Trust has been building log jams, placing boulders, replanting native species, and reconnecting channels in the Sandy River Basin for nearly a decade. Walk along either of these waterways, and you’ll can see our impact – out of the water in the form of towering, stacked logs, and in it, where fish swim underneath. This is big.

Still Creek once provided vital spawning and rearing habitat for native coho, spring Chinook, winter steelhead, and cutthroat trout. Yet roads, recreation, development, stream cleanouts, forest fires, and historic timber harvest took a toll on this tributary. In 1964, the Army Corps of Engineers straightened sections of the Salmon River and removed large wood from the floodplain. Habitat decreased, and so did critical fish populations.

As part of the Sandy River Basin Partners, a group of public and private organizations working to restore the native fish populations of the basin, The Freshwater Trust has taken action on the ground for more than a decade.

Our monitoring data shows it’s working. More diverse and complex habitat has been created, and fish are utilizing the restored areas. In 2015, adult salmon and steelhead were observed holding in restored pools and spawning in gravel recruited from constructed wood jams. Juvenile fish are now rearing in restored side channels.

“This is our backyard basin,” said Mark McCollister, habitat restoration director with The Freshwater Trust. “There’s something incredible about coming back here year after year and watching it change for the better. You can see the years of dirt work and collaboration. All of it has mattered.”

Each year brings new challenges and new hurtles to jump. With the support from people like you, we are able to keep running forward and face each obstacle head-on.

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