The Tale of Two Rivers: Restoring Whychus Creek and Metolius River on the Deschutes National Forest
Located in central Oregon, the Deschutes National Forest is a quintessential example of the stunning evergreen landscapes that define the Pacific Northwest. Whychus Creek and the Metolius River – both designated Wild and Scenic Rivers – wind their way through the dramatic valleys of this forest through roaring rapids and cascading waterfalls.
Historically, these waters contained some of the best fish habitat in the entire region. Unfortunately, years of significant impacts such as overuse by anglers on the Metolius and lack of water in the Whychus have reduced fish numbers and habitat quality in both waterways.
In addition to increased recreational use, low stream flows, dams, and other issues facing these watersheds, forest fires of unprecedented size have further stressed these ecosystems. Decades of fire suppression and logging have produced dense second growth forests that are vulnerable to severe fire, insects, and disease. Severe fires cause widespread tree mortality, but also directly affect fisheries and recreational assets – sediment enters fish habitat, denuded riparian zones exacerbate temperature concerns, and displaced recreationalists concentrated use in non-burned areas, adding to management challenges.
With our local partners, we worked with agricultural interests to restore a healthy portion of Whychus Creek’s historic flows, while maintaining a vibrant agricultural industry in the region. We pulled invasive weeds and planted natives. We thinned the surrounding forests, reducing the threat of severe wildfire and enhancing native habitat for birds and other wildlife. We rebuilt trails and improved access for all Americans through the construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant trail and overlook.
Perhaps as important as the restoration accomplishments are the expanded partnerships and relationships we helped foster in this region. By working with non-traditional partners like the Three Creeks Brewery, the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, Cycle Oregon, talented fiber artists, and plein air painters, we helped lay a foundation of community stewards who will remain engaged and committed to the Deschutes National Forest, Whychus Creek, and the Metolius River.