Elk Creek River Mile 5.6

When: Completed in 2020
Where: Elk Creek, a major tributary of the upper Rogue River

Objective: An in-stream and stream-side restoration project to improve water quality, enhance fish habitat, and increase native plant diversity

An aerial view of the downstream portion of the project site

Historic management activities in the area behind the now-incomplete Elk Creek Dam have resulted in largescale modifications to Elk Creek’s mainstem channel and its side-channels, floodplain, and tributaries. Streams had been channelized, large wood had been removed from the active stream channel, riparian forests had been cleared, and riparian areas had been heavily grazed by livestock. Aquatic habitat conditions had become degraded, especially rearing habitat for juvenile salmonids.

We placed 200-plus large logs in various configurations at 29 strategic locations throughout 1.3 stream miles of three side-channels and 0.9 miles of the primary channel. One of the secondary channels had an earthen berm across the upstream inlet. We excavated the berm material and reconnected this channel to the primary channel at an elevation that would periodically flow in winter months. In addition to the main inlet, a second inlet was also excavated approximately halfway down the secondary channel length to encourage greater flow interaction.

We also treated approximately 30 acres of floodplain forest using integrated pest management practices to help recover native plant communities, primarily focused on suppressing Himalayan blackberry, poison hemlock, and Scotch broom. Additional efforts to encourage native plant survival will be included in future stewardship at the site. 7,300 linear feet of wildlife-friendly livestock exclusion fence was also constructed to protect 21 acres of floodplain forest along two of the secondary channels.

Our actions will result in the reconnection of Elk Creek to its floodplain, increased inundation of off-channel habitats, and the creation of complex habitat in three side-channels – all leading to improved rearing conditions for juvenile salmonids and improved habitat for a number of fish and wildlife species.

A side-channel prior to the installation of large wood
The same side-channel after the installation of large wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This project would not have been possible without the funding and support from the following:

Bureau of Land Management (Medford District), Hancock Forest Management, Medford Water Commission, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and US Army Corps of Engineers