Notes from the Field: Exploring Restoration Efforts in the Trout Creek Watershed

May 15, 2023
Notes from the Field: Exploring Restoration Efforts in the Trout Creek Watershed

We recently had the opportunity to participate in a tour organized by PGE (Portland General Electric), the Tribes Pelton-Round Butte Fish Committee and the Deschutes Land Trust to witness the restoration projects in the Trout Creek watershed. The tour took us through PGE's Trout Creek Ranch (a few miles up from the mouth of Trout Creek) and Deschutes Land Trust's Priday Ranch (near Willowdale), where we observed the positive changes that have occurred. Representatives from various organizations, including PGE, DLT (Deschutes Land Trust), DRC (Deschutes River Conservancy), Native Fish Society, Trout Unlimited, The Freshwater Trust, USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), Jefferson SWCD (Soil and Water Conservation District), joined us on this journey dedicated to preserving and restoring this valuable ecosystem.

Restoration of In-Stream Habitat and Stream Morphology:

During our tour, we were impressed by the efforts made to restore the in-stream habitat and stream morphology within the Trout Creek watershed. Through careful planning and collaboration, significant improvements have been achieved, providing a more favorable environment for a diverse range of aquatic species. These restoration projects aim to enhance the health and functionality of Trout Creek, benefiting both fish and other aquatic organisms.

The Return of the Beavers:

One notable indication of the restoration's success is the re-colonization of beavers in the area, particularly on Antelope Creek, an important tributary to Trout Creek. The presence of these industrious animals indicates improved stream connectivity and the establishment of suitable habitats. Witnessing the return of beavers was a positive sign of the restoration initiatives' effectiveness and their ability to support natural ecosystems.

Enhancing Streamflows for Steelhead:

Another crucial aspect of the restoration efforts in the Trout Creek watershed focuses on improving streamflows to support steelhead populations. Steelhead rely on Trout Creek for spawning and rearing. PGE has permanently transferred 2.57 cfs instream from their ranch. Collaborative work between DRC and local landowners aims to further enhance streamflows, ensuring optimal conditions for these remarkable fish. The restoration initiatives strive to preserve the creek's complicated natural flow patterns, promoting the long-term recovery and sustainability of steelhead populations.

Discovering the Sabertooth Salmon:

During our expedition, we learned a fascinating fact that deepened our understanding of the Trout Creek watershed's historical significance. Fossils of the sabertooth salmon, an ancient species, have been unearthed in this region. These impressive creatures, measuring up to 9 feet long, possessed two large horizontal teeth at the tip of their nose. Contrary to earlier beliefs, these teeth were determined to be oriented horizontally, similar to a warthog's, rather than large downward-facing fangs. This discovery provided a captivating glimpse into the area's past, highlighting the rich natural heritage of the Trout Creek watershed.

Key Takeaways

The tour through the Trout Creek watershed, made possible by PGE, the Tribes Pelton-Round Butte Fish Committee, DLT, and various dedicated organizations, offered a profound experience. Witnessing the tangible outcomes of the restoration projects, including the improved in-stream habitats, the return of beavers, and the ongoing efforts to enhance streamflows for steelhead, emphasized the importance of collaborative conservation efforts. Additionally, the discovery of sabertooth salmon fossils unveiled the watershed's ancient history and the significance of preserving its natural wonders. The tour served as a reminder that through shared responsibility and dedicated action, we can protect and restore invaluable ecosystems like the Trout Creek watershed.

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