The Deschutes Land Trust is one of the first organizations to which I donated after arriving in Central Oregon in 2004. Their work restoring Whychus Creek and efforts to preserve Skyline Forest were, and continue to be, compelling. Work started in 2017 on the Crooked River is exciting as well. Recently, the DLT has had turnover in some key positions so I was excited to have the opportunity to meet with them and tour their Priday Ranch acquisition last week, a project that should be of interest to steelhead anglers. I am happy to report that the DLT remains in competent hands and Priday Ranch looks like it will be a great acquisition and benefit to anglers on the Lower Deschutes.
Readers of this blog know my fascination with steelhead and the disappointing results so far from the efforts to reintroduce steelhead into the Upper Deschutes Basin (above Lake Billy Chinook). I have not written much about Trout Creek, a tributary of the Lower Deschutes north of Madras, but since the installation in the 1960’s of Portland General Electric’s Pelton Round Butte hydroelectric project, it is the primary spawning stream for Lower Deschutes steelhead. Anyone who has seen Trout Creek knows how resilient steelhead must be to move up that small, intermittent, waterway sometimes all the way into the Ochoco Mountains near Prineville. Improving habitat on Trout Creek will not directly help with the upper basin reintroduction effort, but it will help steelhead.
Priday Ranch holds productive steelhead spawning habitat and the DLT is working to improve it. Ranching operations are being curtailed and beavers are recolonizing Trout and Antelope Creeks. High flows will allow adult steelhead to move over the beaver dams, and the pools in low water will provide invaluable habitat for juvenile fish.
Longer term plans are to allow the creeks to remeander, like the DLT has done on Whychus Creek. Remeandering creates additional habitat and allows the ground to act like a sponge, soaking up water in wet periods and releasing it during dry periods.
I encourage you to make a yearend donation to the DLT if you are able.