South Fork Crooked River Riparian Restoration

Aaron Tani

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South Fork Crooked River and Birds

South Fork Crooked River and Birds

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Cregg Large, member since 2009

Cregg Large, member since 2009

“I came to Oregon 12 years ago from Texas. Texas, for all its size, has very little public land. Coming to Oregon has made me realize the special gift we as Americans have in our public lands. Volunteering with an organization like ONDA is my way of reciprocating for this gift. Through restoration efforts, I feel we are helping leave a better place than we found it. Through advocating for protection for public lands, we safeguard migration routes for animals and keep the land where it belongs: with the public.”

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Great Horned Owls and Western Screech Owls

Great Horned Owls and Western Screech Owls

Organizer: Jefferson Jacobs

Dates: September 19-22, 2024

Region: Central Oregon

Difficulty Rating: Level 5: Extreme

Maximum Group Size: 16 participants

About the place

ONDA’s conservation work takes place on the traditional lands of the Northern Paiute, Wasco, Warm Springs, Bannock and Shoshone people, as well as ceded lands of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and on lands currently managed by the Burns Paiute Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Many Indigenous peoples live in Oregon’s high desert region today, including members of the Burns Paiute Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (Wasco, Warm Springs and Paiute), the Klamath Tribes (Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin) and the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribe.

The South Fork of the Crooked River has its source just to the south of the South Fork Crooked River Wilderness Study Area (WSA). After the river carves its way north through the canyon in the WSA it passes through a patchwork of BLM lands and private ranches before reaching the mainstem of the Crooked River. Historically the South Fork was home to anadromous fish such as salmon and steelhead, and has been the site of successful redband trout reintroduction efforts in recent years. It is also home to a stronghold for western ridged mussels, a candidate for Endangered Species listing. However, due to the eradication of beaver, riparian habitat loss from overgrazing, and irrigation withdrawals dewatering the creek, the river’s water temperatures have risen and habitat quality has plummeted. This trip will take place on an 80-acre inholding within the South Fork Wilderness Study Area owned by the Oregon Desert Land Trust. This inholding encompasses both banks of nearly three quarters of a mile of river.

About the stewardship work

This trip contributes to a multi-year effort to improve the habitat not only on the property involved but throughout the entire South Fork drainage.

Participants will backpack 3.5 miles up the river, where they will establish a camp for the duration of the trip. Wildlife-friendly fence protecting the property from grazing was completed in 2023.  The main objective of this trip is to begin to repair mesic areas next to the river in preparation for passive recovery of vegetation and for planting of upland forbs in coming years.  Mesic areas are rare features on the landscape because they have more water available for plants and animals through the dry season than the surrounding landscape.  Our work specifically on this landscape will involve removing and limbing juniper that have expanded into what should be a wet meadow. We will then use juniper limbs and other natural materials to build anti-erosion structures in numerous erosion gullies in the adjacent area that are further draining the landscape. Work will be highly varied, and there will be plenty of opportunities for finding the right task that fits your skills and interests.  Tools will involve loppers, shovels, mini-electric chain saws. Besides the juniper cutting itself, there will be dragging of brush, moving of dirt and smaller rocks/cobble in support of the structure construction.

View photos from the 2024 fence building trip.

Mark Darnell

Trip timeline

  • Thursday, September 19, 3 p.m.: Meet at the Jake Place property on the South Fork of the Crooked River. Prompt arrival will be critical to allow the group to begin hiking up the canyon together to establish camp.
  • Friday-Saturday, September 20-21, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Full days of work cutting juniper and building structures a 20 minute walk away from camp.
  • Sunday, September 22, 8 a.m.: After breakfast we can pack up camp and hike back to the vehicles together and then head home!

Camp

The campsite is on a broad juniper and sagebrush bench along the river in the center of the inholding. There is plenty of room to spread out, and there are trees for shade. The site is remote, undeveloped and without amenities (other than being next to the river), and it is lovely. The access road to the trailhead is an unmaintained dirt road, but it is not too much for a Subaru, or even a regular, adventurous sedan driven carefully. You will be able to park your vehicle in a secure location behind a locked gate on private land.

Difficulty

Level 5

This trip will be physically demanding. Participants will need to be able to backpack all of their own supplies and some small hand tools to the campsite. During the work, there will be a variety of degrees of physical labor, but generally a good deal of hauling/dragging brush and digging and moving gravel and dirt and rocks. Some of this work will occur on steep hills. That being said, there will be many opportunities for taking breaks and switching up jobs throughout the day.

Participant responsibilities

Participants are responsible for their own food and camping gear as well as transportation to and from the trip. Participants will need to be able to backpack their equipment 3.5 miles to the campsite. Sturdy off-trail ankle-high boots, long sleeves and eye protection (prescription eye glasses or sunglasses are suitable eye protection) are required for this trip. We recommend bringing your own work gloves to provide a comfortable fit, but it is not required.

Gear provided

ONDA will provide work gloves if you don’t have a pair, all the tools and materials required for the work, safety gear and excellent guidance in the field.

Registration

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.

Apply Now

You will receive a confirmation email within 2 weeks 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 “wait list.”

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, 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.