The NFF’s Pacific Northwest Field Program Director, Patrick Shannon, recounts a day long-coming celebrating collaborative success on the Deschutes National Forest.

The forecast looked daunting for an outdoor celebration, cold weather and a chance of rain. This made me nervous because at an elevation of over 3,000 feet in Sisters, Oregon it could turn to snow. Luckily for the 60 people who gathered at the Whychus Overlook on the Deschutes National Forest to celebrate the completion of major restoration work, the sun was shining and the rain held off until after the event.

This was a gathering of partners, friends and collaborators who came together to celebrate the completion of the National Forest Foundation’s “Tale of Two Rivers” Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences campaign. The NFF, working in coordination with the Forest Service, leveraged more than $4 million to restore Whychus Creek and the Metolius River, both National Wild and Scenic Rivers. These rivers are truly treasured landscapes and are highly valued by the community of Sisters and the many people who hike or fish these rivers.

Whychus has an impressive history. It once provided more than half of the steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Deschutes River Basin. In recent years Whychus Creek was known as the “lost river” because the river lost its water to irrigation withdrawals. In the summertime it often would run dry preventing fish to swim upstream.

The Metolius River is a crystal clear, spring fed river that runs through towering old growth Ponderosa pines and provides miles of hiking trails and amazing fly fishing opportunities. Due to its popularity, the recreation on and in the river degraded the water quality and beauty which is what brought so many visitors. In short, people were loving it to death.

Over the past six years, the NFF worked with local organizations, the community of Sisters and the Forest Service to restore these rivers. Over 1,200 volunteers spent more than 9,600 hours restoring hiking trails, planting trees and removing unnecessary fences near these amazing rivers. Their efforts protected fish habitat and made the recreation opportunities more accessible and sustainable.

While we are very proud of the restoration accomplishments for these two rivers, experiencing the energy and pride of the 60 people who spent countless hours and effort conducting this work cannot be undervalued. In the smiling eyes of so many people you could see the reward of their hard work and investment making these treasured landscapes of our National Forests shine like the gems that they are.

National Forest Foundation