In response to my post a few days ago regarding the Wyeth boat ramp on the Upper Deschutes, John Butler sent me photos taken in October 2015 when the flows out of Wickiup were at 10 cfs. These photos are illustrative in many ways.
This photo shows just how deteriorated the ramp is and why the US Forest Service asked for funds to help repair it. There is broken concrete everywhere. Of course, no one would use the ramp at these extreme low flows, but even at higher flows the ramp was not safe to launch much more than a kayak.
This is what the Upper Deschutes used to look like in the winter. John commented, “I could walk across the river in ankle deep water on bedrock. Probably no insect larvae survived winter freezes.” This is exactly correct and part of why the Upper Deschutes has been so ecologically devastated by irrigation withdrawals for over 100 years.
Here you can clearly see the other problem that has plagued the river. The undercut bank on the right is the result of flows during irrigation season that are 3 times the natural level, widening the channel and silting in spawning beds. These extreme seasonal fluctuations have caused species like bull trout to become locally extinct and left other aquatic species barely holding on to life.
John asks how long will it take for the river to recover? This is exactly the question I asked myself when I considered my vote to use funds from angler dollars to partially fund this ramp. Like I stated in the previous post, I really struggled making a decision before voting to approve. If the irrigation districts keep their word and the flows in this section of the river never go below 100 cfs going forward, fish populations could see improvement in the near future. Of course, as I mentioned in the previous post, flows during irrigation season will remain high, making fishing difficult.