NEAR OREGON CAVES, Ore. – U.S. Forest Service officials and volunteers are showing off a four year project to restore a stretch of Sucker Creek, near Oregon Caves National Monument. It’s a project that officials hope will point the way to more stream restoration projects in the Illinois Valley.
Sucker Creek is splashing and gurgling it’s way through rocks and boulders, tree roots and deep pools where once it was a straight channel, nothing like mother nature had in mind. Now, thanks to dozens of volunteers, Forest Service workers and contractors, this stream near Oregon Caves is more like what biologists think fish would like.
“I think the biggest thrill for all of us on the team, is a soon as you put the water in, as Kevin said, you can look and see the fish all right here,” explains Forest Service Hydrologist Chris Park.
“What we’ve done is narrow the channel, deepened it, and then we have these pools all work together to help cool Sucker Creek. Kevin O’Brien, with the Watershed Council. “We’re re-establishing the riparian gallery forest so that as we cool that water we’ll be able to keep it cool with the shading that will develop.”
In 2009, workers carved out a new channel that will allow Sucker Creek to spread out in times of high water and provide refuge for baby fish, and keep the stream from flowing so far.
“We just kinda set the table for, and get the conditions for, these habitat features to maintain over time,” says Steve Brazier, with the U.S. Forest Service.
“This channel is designed to withstand a 100 year flood event,” explains Liza Berger, with Siskiyou National Forest. “So, we used skilled local contractor every year for the last four years out here um, to create this.”
Planting of several hundred more trees planned for this fall or winter is expected to finish the project.