Cottonwood Canyon State Park BDA Install #1


Spring Basin Wilderness

Spring Basin Wilderness

Spring Basin Wilderness

With 10,000 acres of undulating terrain, secluded canyons and spectacular vantages of the John Day Country, Spring Basin is magnificent to explore This public treasure, forever protected as Wilderness, offers a profusion of desert wildflowers in the spring and year-round recreational opportunities for hikers, horseback

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Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

Terry Butler, 2018 Volunteer of the Year

“If I have to pick a favorite place in Oregon’s high desert, it would be Sutton Mountain, but I’m excited about all of the Wilderness Study Areas,” says Terry, adding, “Each is a gem to explore, and I hope they all get protection someday… I love the scale of the physical beauty of the desert.”


Western Rattlesnake

Western Rattlesnake

Also known as the Great Basin Rattlesnake, these pit vipers have buff-tan coloring and small, oval blotches to blend into their arid surroundings. Small heat-sensing indentations on each side of the snake’s snout detects warm-blooded prey for better striking accuracy in the dark. Source: The Oregon Encyclopedia

Latin name: Crotalus oreganus lutosus

Organizer: Jefferson Jacobs

Start Date: 5/9/2019

End Date: 5/12/2019

Region: John Day River Basin

Difficulty Rating: 3 out of 5

Maximum Group Size: 10 participants

About the place

Cottonwood Canyon State Park is one of Oregon’s newest state parks. Formerly the Murtha Ranch, this 8,000-acre paradise exemplifies the rugged beauty of the John Day River territory with remarkable canyons, tall plateaus and sweeping sage-covered views. Cottonwood is home to bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and elk, and the John Day River running through it is laden with chinook, steelhead and other species of native trout.

View the map.

About the stewardship work

This trip involves restoring three miles of riparian habitat along Hay Creek, a steelhead-rearing tributary of the John Day. Historic overgrazing, cycles of flood and drought, and recent wildfires have resulted in a creek eroded up to 20 feet below its surrounding floodplains, and very little native plant diversity. The four-year Hay Creek restoration project (now in its second year of implementation) will involve protecting existing vegetation from browse, building beaver dam analogues (BDAs) to provide irrigation to dry floodplains to make them suitable for planting, and installing a large number of diverse, native  riparian plant species.

On this trip ONDA volunteers will begin installing portions of 26 (of a total of 38) BDAs planned for the creek. Mainly we will focus on installing posts on the dry portions of each BDA. Trips later in the warmer months of the year will install the posts within the creek itself, as well as weave willows and place rock and gravel to impound the water.

The work will involve helping distribute materials and tools to each construction site, the chance to take a turn helping with the hydraulic post pounder, photo documentation and assisting with measuring and surveying the construction. No experience or special equipment necessary, just a willingness to learn. Some tasks will be physically strenuous, but there are plenty of tasks which are not, or can be accomplished at a pace appropriate to your specific abilities.

Trip timeline

  • Thursday, May 9, 5 p.m.: We will meet at the Cottonwood Canyon Campground. After dinner we’ll have time to talk more in depth about the coming days’ work and its significance in the bigger picture.
  • Friday-Saturday, May 10-11: After breakfast, we’ll carpool the 20 minutes or so to the worksite in Hay Creek. We’ll be away from camp all day, but head back around 3:30 p.m. each day
  • Sunday, May 12: After breakfast, we will break down camp and volunteers can head home.


We will be camping in the luxurious Cottonwood Canyon State Park Campground. There is potable water onsite, bathrooms and kitchen shelters.


While pounding the posts with the hydraulic pounder will be hard, noisy work, there are other tasks that will need to be done, such as transporting building materials and tools to the various work sites. Everyone can pace themselves, regulate their own level of effort, switch between tasks of varying intensities and rest as needed. 

Trip highlights and challenges

  • Navigating steep incised stream banks, potentially cold early spring camping temperatures, and being patient with a work flow that involves can be highly variable.
  • A major feeling of accomplishment in being part of work which will fundamentally improve three miles of creek and eventually insulate it from the impacts of climate change.
  • The relative closeness of the project area to Portland allowing for day-trip access if desired.

Participant responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food, camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. Car-pooling will be available. While we will not be working in the actual creek itself, we may have to cross the creek from time to time, and not all work locations are compatible with bridge construction. Therefore participants will need hip waders to use themselves or to share for crossings. Participants should be prepared to be away from camp all day each of the work days.

Gear provided

ONDA will provide tools for the work, and extra pair of waders, some group camping equipment, and expert leadership. We also provide hot water at morning and evening mealtimes to help expedite meal prep, and fresh coffee in the morning.


An ONDA registration application and medical form are required for this trip. Check the box next to each trip you would like to attend. You only need to fill this form out once per year.

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What happens next?

You will receive a confirmation email within 10 working days of submitting your form. The confirmation email will provide information regarding which trips you are on the “participant list” for, and which trips are full, and therefore you have been placed on the “waitlist.”

Six weeks before the start of the trip, the trip leader will send out an RSVP to make sure everyone is still able to participate. Based on RSVPs, open spaces will be backfilled with people from the waitlist.

Three weeks before the trip start date, registered and confirmed participants will receive driving instructions, maps, car-pooling options, and additional information in an email sent by the trip leader.

If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact the trip leader.