Gathering insects to support Whychus Creek

August 12, 2017
Gathering insects to support Whychus Creek

Restoring salmon and steelhead populations in Whychus Creek relies on a healthy habitat full of aquatic insects.

Upper Deschutes Watershed Council members and volunteers did their part Saturday to collect and analyze the insects — mostly small mayflies, stoneflies, cactus flies and snails — in the creek as part of the ninth annual Stream Sampling event.

About 30 people turned out Saturday. They broke off into groups and gathered samples in a dozen different sites along the creek, a tributary of the Deschutes River that runs through Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

Celeste Searles Mazzacano, an entomologist and owner of CASM Environmental, led a group of two others — Erin Barnholdt, program assistant for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, and volunteer Jim Brock.

Mazzacano, who will study all of the bottled-up samples, said she has seen positive changes in the creek from the various restoration efforts over the years. Work such as dam removals have strengthened the flow of the creek. The water is now running faster and colder, making it more ideal for the aquatic insects, Mazzacano said.

“Any other stream I go in this time of year, I’ll just go in my water sandals,” she said. “But this is really cold.”

With support from the watershed council, the Deschutes Land Trust has made restoring Whychus Creek a top priority. Most recently, the nonprofit trust bought 130 acres along the creek for conservation and habitat restoration.

The trust has raised nearly $1.7 million and restored 91⁄2 miles of the creek, since its effort began three years ago.

On Saturday, the volunteers trudged through the river with sampling nets. They put the nets in the water, and let the current fill the nets with insects. At times, they would dig their hands into the river and scrape insects off rocks, dropping the bugs into their nets.

Brock, 72, is a retired investment adviser who splits his time between his homes in Black Butte Ranch and Marin County, California.

He said volunteering Saturday with Mazzacano and Barnholdt reminded him of environmental projects he used to do as the past president of The North Bay Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Northern California.

Brock enjoys fishing in the region, especially on the ­Metolius River. He hopes work like the sampling event helps attract fish populations to the Whychus Creek.

He noticed the effort still has some ways to go. The amount of insects he found in the Whychus Creek is nowhere near what he finds in the ­Deschutes or Metolius Rivers. But like the other volunteers who walked carefully in the water, he was impressed with how fast the creek is running.

“It’s got a good flow to it,” Brock said. “Getting fish back in here would be wonderful.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,

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An aerial view of a body of water.