Rushing Streams are Dead Streams

 

Bringing Life Back to Our Stream

We thought our swift and unfettered stream was nice and clean and therefore wonderful. Not true.

For a long time, those who owned forest land were encouraged to clean debris from streams. Let the water run free and clean, was the mantra.

No longer. Now, we know that old trees that fall across our creeks and streams are a good thing. Each year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists tromp through our land, (with our blessings) to measure life in our stream and on our land. They realized that our stream in Columbia County was suffering from a lack of resting places for fish, and fishing places for other wildlife. They proposed a solution: add downed trees across and into the stream. Downed trees add structure which is a good thing for a stream and for the beings that live in the stream.

My husband, Woody, and his sister, Marilyn, and brother, Pete, (the officers of our family tree farm) worked very hard with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife biologists to make a proposal that finally came to life a year ago.

Our stream sometimes meanders on our tree farm, and sometimes turns onto the land of our neighbor to the west, so the first move was to get permission from our neighbor to make the proposed changes. We also needed his permission for some equipment to move onto his land during the process.

Since we had worked with him before to solve mutual problems, this discussion went well. After a couple of phone calls, he agreed that this would benefit all of us.

The Richen Family Tree Farm donated the trees (about 15 live trees – potential lumber) and coordinated the equipment and man-power that was already available on a nearby project. Oregon Fish and Wildlife directed the placement of the trees in five pre-planned areas of the stream.

The opening photo is our stream as it would be without the downed trees. The trees in the foreground of this picture are the lowest, or most down-stream break in the river’s rush.

And here is the upstream picture just above the same logs.

You can see that there are places for fish to rest as they swim, to lay eggs and fertilize eggs, places for small fry to grow, but, also for deer and elk to drink, and for bear and heron to fish.

In some areas, this fall, we could see that new shelves of silt and debris were building up behind each dam of logs.The logs create low bridges from bank to bank. Thus, they slow down parts of the stream near the banks, especially at turning points along the stream path. The middle of the stream runs under the logs and out to its confluence with a bigger stream and on to the Columbia.

 

Here is the widest living space along the five log placements. This is in the middle of the project and dam number three (counting from up-stream to number five, farthest downstream. Woody is standing a little above the bank of the stream, twenty feet above log dam number three. At this point, we estimated that the slow-running water had spread over about thirty yards in stream length by about twenty yards in width.

And the BIG BONUS for doing this?

Below, see that same area at evening. This is a video from our wildlife camera at stream-side. We had not previously seen a heron on this property. Where there is heron, there are fish. Life is back, living in this area and not being scurried and harried through by the power of free-running water. Yes! and only eighteen months after the tree placement. Hit the replay

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