The Land Trust just announced that we have a new Preserve joining the family: Willow Springs Preserve! We are still in the early days of getting know the Preserve, but wanted to share some cool features of the property so you too can get to know Willow Springs Preserve.
Three cool features of Willow Springs Preserve:
- Diverse plant communities: Willow Springs Preserve has a diverse and healthy native plant community. The Preserve is home to a cottonwood gallery forest, which forms a corridor of trees along Whychus Creek. Cottonwood gallery forests occur in floodplains where scouring and soil deposition help the cottonwoods grow. Deer, elk, and beaver enjoy the leaves and shoots of cottonwoods, and large birds will nest in them. Cottonwood gallery forests are in decline in the West, making the one at Willow Springs especially important. The cottonwoods share creekside habitat with an abundant and very diverse willow community (hence the Preserve name). These willows light up the creek corridor each winter and spring with their bright yellow and red stems.
There are also many aspen stands at Willow Springs Preserve that provide benefits to wildlife. Aspen offer nesting and foraging opportunities for songbirds, bats, deer, beaver, and other wildlife. In winter and spring, aspen release snowpack stored in their shady groves into streams and groundwater. Learn more about aspen.
- Cool water temperatures: Just upstream from Willow Springs Preserve are two large, cold-water springs that feed into Whychus Creek and greatly benefit the Preserve. These springs, known as McKinney Butte Springs, provide up to 46% of the creek’s flow in this area during the dry summer months. When Whychus Creek flows past McKinney Butte Springs, the water temperate drops from around 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 57 degrees Fahrenheit! This cold water influx is beneficial for steelhead and salmon, making Willow Springs Preserve a great place for these fish.
- Central Oregon human history: The Wa’dihichi’tika, a Northern Paiute group, had a home district that included the Willow Springs area. They gathered roots, seeds, and berries, hunted, and likely fished local rivers and creeks, particularly during the spring salmon run. Individual families would travel from place to place for increased hunting and foraging opportunities during the spring, summer, and fall, before reconvening in winter camps.
Euro-Americans began moving to the Sisters area in the late 1860s. In 1910, there were several portable lumber mills on Whychus Creek near Willow Springs, originally owned by Joseph P. Duckett and John L. Spoo. John’s son Ed took over his part in the company and in 1918, and a larger, permanent mill was built right next to Willow Springs Preserve. Ed used a truck (one of only two trucks in Central Oregon at that time!) to move logs to the mill rather than a horse-drawn big-wheel. The Duckett and Spoo sawmill was the first permanent, commercial mill in the Sisters area, producing enough lumber during each shift to put siding on 250 Hindman barns. The Hindman barn is located just downstream from Willow Springs Preserve at the Land Trust's Camp Polk Meadow Preserve. (Thanks to Martin Winch's book Biography of a Place!)