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Whychus Creek Redirected to Historic Path


In a project nearly five decades in the making, the full flow of Whychus Creek returned Tuesday to Camp Polk Meadow near Sisters.

A man-made plug, a huge pile of logs, redirected 1.7 miles of the creek to its original channel through the meadow.

The Deschutes Land Trust, Upper Dechutes Watershed Council and Deschutes National Forest spent years studying historic photos of the area to see where the creek wandered before ranchers redirected it away from their farms.

Officials say the point is to mimic nature and improve the habitat for trout,salmon and steelhead.

“This property was really the starting place for settlement in Central Oregon,” land trust Executive Director Brad Chalfant said. “The Army was here almost 150 years ago, and that set a chain of events in motion that changed this place pretty dramatically.”

“But now, with the prospects of salmon and steelhead back in the Upper Deschutes, this is truly the place steelhead get their start — and this is a critical step in this historic reintroduction,” Chalfant said.

It only took about an hour for the water to fill in the new channel, and for officials to transfer thousands of fish into the water.

More than 180,000 native plants also have been planted along the creek.

The land trust’s news release:

Following more than a decade of planning and preparation, bulldozers gathered at the intersection of the old and newly restored channels and dumped 10,000 cubic yards of rocks, trees, and dirt into the creek, land trust officials said.

The flow was instantly redirected into the restored channel. At the same time, biologists and teams of volunteers with buckets helped rescue all the fish left in the blocked channel and moved to their home in the new Whychus Creek.

“It’s incredible to see a project in which so many have worked patiently for so many years finally come to fruition,” Chalfant said in a news release.

“The land trust has worked toward this day for over 15 years, but we couldn’t have done it without our many partners, funders and volunteers,” he said. “Together, we’ve created a slow, meandering new stream channel that can provide essential spawning and rearing habitat for the historic return of salmon and steelhead.”

The restorationis a $2 million project designed to bring the creek back to its historic path through the meadow. Goals of the project include restoring habitat for native fish and restoring the natural functions of the wet meadow for a variety of wildlife species.

Work began in 1997 when the land trust, in partnership with Portland General Electric, began negotiations to purchase the property with the vision of re-meandering the creek through the meadow to provide critical habitat for the eventual restoration of salmon and steelhead.

Contractors carved a new, meandering channel through the meadow in 2009, followed by volunteers and crews planting more than 180,000 sedges, willows, dogwoods, and other native plants along the new channel. To learn more about the restoration or view video footage, please visit our restoration webpage.

The Whychus Creek restoration at Camp Polk Meadow Preserve is a joint effort between the Deschutes Land Trust, the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and the Deschutes National Forest.

Primary funders of the project include: Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Pelton Round Butte Fund (Portland General Electric & the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs), Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Forest Foundation, Bella Vista Foundation, Laird Norton Family Foundation, Deschutes River Conservancy, Freshwater Trust, The Nature Conservancy and East Cascade Audubon Society.

The Deschutes Land Trust conserves land for wildlife, scenic views, and local communities. As Central Oregon’s only nationally accredited and locally-based land trust, the Deschutes Land Trust has protected more than 8,200 acres since 1995. For more information on Deschutes Land Trust, contact us at (541) 330-0017 or visit

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