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The Proof Is In the Pudding: Seeing Fish Return to Pudding Creek after Restoration

Some of the coastal habitat restoration projects we funded in 2013 are already showing results. One of these is an effort to restore and reconnect floodplain wetlands in the Willamette River watershed in Oregon. The first phase of this project, completed last summer, restored former gravel mining pits and turned them into ponds for salmon. And this spring, we saw young Chinook swimming through the ponds!

Floodplain gravel mining took place in many areas along the Willamette River. Before they were disconnected from the river, these gravel pits provided resting places for salmon. The fish used them to get out of the faster flows of the river, growing there until they were ready to migrate to the ocean.

As part of this project, The Nature Conservancy bought property on Pudding Creek, a Willamette tributary, from a local gravel extracting company. We worked with them to dig channels to reconnect the gravel pits to the river. We also added large woody debris to the restored ponds to create log jams for salmon to hide and rest. The entire project, including similar components downstream, will eventually restore 300 acres of floodplain habitat and bring several miles of streams back to a more natural condition. It will also address recommendations from the Upper Willamette Chinook and Steelhead Recovery Plan.

Restoration Center funding was used to plant trees, shrubs, and wetland plants this spring. We also funded monitoring at the site, and saw young Chinook salmon swimming through the newly-placed log jams—a good sign that the fish are using this restored habitat.

Posted July 7, 2015

Water flows through the constructed side-channel, re-connecting the Middle Fork Willamette River to Pudding Creek.