Five years after the Camp Polk restoration

Mar 08, 2017
In 2012 the Land Trust and our restoration partners returned Whychus Creek to its path through the meadow, forever changing the face of the Preserve. How has the meadow changed since then?

It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been five years since the massive restoration of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve was complete. February 28, 2012 was the day the Land Trust and our restoration partners returned the full flow of the creek back to the meadow for the first time in 47 years. 

Since then, the Land Trust, the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, and other restoration partners have been monitoring the meadow to see how the restoration is progressing. Here are a few of the highlights from recent reports:

  • Groundwater data (from the 2016 groundwater report): The pre-restoration goal for groundwater was to increase the average groundwater elevation to a depth of two feet below ground surface level during the growing season. Post-restoration, a significant increase in groundwater has been observed each year with the trend holding steady at less than three feet below the surface. Researchers expect that groundwater levels at Camp Polk Meadow will continue to fluctuate from year to year as a result of climatic differences in snowpack, runoff, precipitation, in-stream flows, and temperature. Ongoing channel evolution will also likely contribute to future fluctuations as well. However, the good news is that vegetation along the restored channel is thriving and colonizing new areas as well. This suggests that sufficient water is available for the plants to grow.

  • Macroinvertebrate surveys (from 2015 overall project report): Despite metrics indicating some decline in stream conditions in 2015, metrics characterizing the macroinvertebrate community in Whychus Creek over time suggest the community has become increasingly composed of a greater abundance of sensitive taxa, taxa associated with flowing (rather than standing) water, and taxa that will only inhabit cooler and clearer streams. In addition, species new to Whychus Creek have been added every year during sampling and most of those have been in the sensitive species group. Why do we track macroinvertebrates (aka water bugs)? Macroinvertebrates are a key indicator of stream health and are critical to the food web which sustains many species of fish and wildlife.

  • Vegetation (from 2014 vegetation report): Data from the 2014 report show that the plant community along the restored stream channel at Camp Polk Meadow is continuing to become well established and abundant. Vegetation and groundcover remain abundant with planted vegetation accounting for more than one third of total vegetative cover. Natural regeneration of volunteer plants is also occurring. The success of streamside plants also indicates that groundwater levels within 100 feet of the channel are able to support vegetation. Why do we monitor vegetation? Streamside vegetation helps keep water cool and shady for fish and other aquatic species. It also provides forage, and nesting and hiding cover for birds and mammals. Watch the slideshow below to see how much the vegetation at Camp Polk Meadow has grown!

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