Whychus Creek Restoration

Learn more about the multi-year project to restore Whychus Creek at Whychus Canyon Preserve and Rimrock Ranch.

The Land Trust and our restoration partners began the first phase of a six-mile restoration of Central Oregon's Whychus Creek in 2016. Efforts were first focused on the northernmost mile of creek at Whychus Canyon Preserve with the goal of improving habitat in and around the creek for fish and wildlife. We started the second phase of restoration in 2021, focusing on the southernmost portion of the creek that runs through Rimrock Ranch.

Why restore Whychus Creek?

Together Whychus Canyon Preserve and Rimrock Ranch protect six miles of Whychus Creek. Like other long stretches of this creek in Central Oregon, the portions of Whychus Creek that pass through these properties have been straightened and bermed to keep the creek in place. This in turn diminished fish and wildlife habitat in and along the creek.

Historically, Whychus Creek was a mixture of narrow canyon stretches, and stretches with broad, well-vegetated meadows where the creek could spill over its banks. The biological importance of these large meadows was huge, especially considering all the arid land surrounding them. They provided diverse stream and side channel habitats for fish to spawn, rear, and hide. Streamside vegetation provided cover for wildlife and helped maintain cool stream waters. Nearby wetlands and oxbows were home to amphibians and songbirds.

Only a small portion of the total length of Whychus Creek can provide this critical meadow habitat. Camp Polk Meadow Preserve is one of these special sections and Whychus Canyon Preserve and Rimrock Ranch are another. Our goal in restoring the creek through these valuable stretches is to help return the creek to a healthy, biologically diverse condition.

How will the restoration happen?

Given the size and scale of the restoration, work will occur in phases over many years. The first phase started in 2016 and focused on approximately 1.5 miles of Whychus Creek in the northernmost part of Whychus Canyon Preserve. Learn more about those efforts and see how it is growing and changing.

The second phase began in 2021 and focused on the southernmost portion of the creek that runs through Rimrock Ranch. Much of the work was similar to the 2016 restoration project at Whychus Canyon Preserve. Construction crews were on site for several weeks to remove berms that were holding the stream in its straight alignment; they carved out soil in some areas and filled it in in others. In the process, they will left islands of mature vegetation to help provide mixed topography and maintain the healthy cottonwood, willow, and dogwood that were currently growing. 

Salvaged whole trees were added throughout the restoration area to slow the flow of water, reduce erosion as the plants grow in, and create complex habitat for fish and wildlife (learn more about the importance of wood in streams). Finally, after the construction was complete, the water in Whychus Creek was slowly returned to move freely across the historic floodplain. See updates from the project!

Finally, in the fall, thousands of native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and grasses were planted and seeded to provide stream shade, bank and floodplain stability, and habitat for wildlife. Then, the project area will be left alone to rest, recover, and naturally evolve and grow.

Who is doing the restoration?

The Land Trust has partnered with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and the Deschutes National Forest on this restoration project. Additionally, a project advisory committee has provided design review and specific scientific expertise where needed. Members of this group include representatives from Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation, Portland General Electric, and Bureau of Land Management.

Learn more about the restoration: