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From Junk to Gem: Urban Creek Restoration in Oregon


The restoration of urban Crystal Springs Creek in Portland, Oregon is seeing success—the return of wild coho salmon—even sooner than expected. This is the first time in recent memory that coho salmon have been seen spawning in the upper reaches of this urban creek. 

Crystal Springs’ year-round flow of cool water makes it ideal rearing habitat for juvenile salmon, and it has been designated as critical habitat.

NOAA, the City of Portland, Army Corps of Engineers, and other partners are working to restore habitat here and elsewhere in the Johnson Creek Watershed. These projects benefit coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout, which are all listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

This work is part of a “whole watershed” approach to improving fish habitat in Crystal Springs. Along with our partners, we have worked since 2010 to:

  • remove culverts that blocked fish from swimming upstream
  • convert a duck pond into a wetland
  • create a natural play area for the community,
  • plant 400 trees and 15,000 native plants.

Before restoration began, Johnson Creek was called “Junk Creek” by locals—but not any longer. Through hard work and persistence, these creeks have been transformed into urban gems. They provide a community connection to nature and important habitat in which fish and other wildlife can thrive.

Posted December 9, 2014



Wild coho salmon protecting their egg nest in a newly accessible section of the creek.