Salmon Return to Wasson Creek

Dave Powers,  Advisor Conservation Programs

November 24th, 2020

EFM’s climate-smart forestry supports habitat for spawning salmon on the Wasson Creek property.

As winter approaches and the rain begins in earnest, the importance of Wasson Creek’s contribution to salmon is magnified.  Wasson Creek, part of the Umpqua River Basin, flows into EFM’s Wasson Forest from the permanently protected Devil’s Staircase Wilderness Area.  Wasson Forest, managed under FSC® standards and climate-smart forestry, provides the majority of Wasson Creek’s salmon rearing habitat including some of its highest quality spawning habitat areas.

Surrounded on three sides by Siuslaw National Forest, Wasson Forest provides refugia for multiple life stages of multiple salmonid species.  Our recent conversation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) indicated poor returns of nearby Umpqua and Smith River salmon, which are a mix of hatchery and wild fish.  In contrast the returns of salmon to Wasson Creek, all wild fish based on observations to date, have been strong.

On Nov. 11th, Veteran’s Day, I saw at least three dozen spawning salmon from the stream bank during a short walk upstream from Wasson Forest’s second bridge to a beaver dam across the Creek.  There were likely more salmon spawning, however I could only get through streamside vegetation to streambed vantage points using animal trails, several of which have been co-opted by ODFW biologists to count salmon.  Walking in the stream would put salmon redds with their newly laid eggs at risk.

A female salmon in Wasson Creek shifts gravel with powerful tail strokes to build a redd, the nest where eggs will be deposited.

Every time I cross Wasson Forest bridges, I see a new cohort of salmon moving upstream on the tail end of their epic journey from the Pacific.  With ancient, single-minded purpose punctuated by bursts of passion they continue to return.  Salmon visions dominate my dreams this time of year and I’m reminded of the movie “Field of Dreams” with a slight salmonid twist.  Wasson Creek is the “Stream of Dreams”.  Protect it and they will come.

EFM’s management supports cold, clean water necessary for Chinook salmon, pictured here spawning in Wasson Creek, and other aquatic species.

Video Credit: Lindsey Wangler for the first video of the salmon redd and Carla Hudson, EFM for the second video of spawning Chinook.