One month ago, the Land Trust and our restoration partners, redirected the full flow of Whychus Creek back into Camp Polk Meadow for the first time in 47 years. It was a historic day full of excitement as the restored channel filled with water and took to its new home. Watch the videos and slideshows from that day!
The water redirection also marked the first day of three weeks of construction designed to finish the restoration project. After stranded fish were rescued from the old Whychus Creek channel, crews filled the creekbed with the giant dirt and rock plugs that have been stored in the meadow for the past three years. Goodbye dirt stock piles, hello new plugs soon to be seeded with native plants. Crews also excavated final side channels, distributed more trees across the floodplain, and removed all access roads created during the construction. Finally, the entire meadow is now free of bridges and culverts! Fish and water can move about unrestricted.
Apart from the final construction work, Whychus Creek is really beginning to make itself at home in the meadow. Visible changes we're already seeing include:
- Nice clear water with good gravels! After the initial rush of silty water, the creek's gravels have been sorting themselves and the streambed is already in excellent condition.
- The underlying water table has risen quickly and dramatically--exceeding our expectations. This means more wetlands, more side channels (new ones the creek has already made!), and more of the mature vegetation along the retired channel will survive.
- Eagles and elk have been sighted regularly.
- 30,000 Chinook fry were released into the new channel in early March.
- Reband trout have already been seen making redds (spawning beds) in the new channel!
- The beaver have been extremely busy moving into their new home and rearranging things to their liking. Construction crews actually watched a beaver felling trees and swimming around in the new channel!
- A wide variety of waterfowl can be spotted on any given day, hanging around Duckett Pond and in the restored channel. All the meanders in the new creek have slowed down the water, giving the ducks a chance to paddle about in the main stream--something they weren’t able to do when the old channel was one long series of rapids.
A huge thanks to all the folks who have helped with this restoration project! Many of them have been at Camp Polk the last three weeks working 10 hour days (in wind, snow, rain), 6-7 days/week: Partney Construction crews (highly skilled people that care a lot about the quality of their work and have been with us from phase 1, day 1). Paul Powers and Cari Press (Deschutes National Forest's technical team, and our project masterminds). thanks to all our bird survey volunteers who have been dodging equipment to keep our surveys current. And, of course, thanks to the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, the Land Trust's restoration partner without whom none of this would have possible.
The photos below show some of the changes in the meadow since the water was redirected. Click on each image to make it bigger.