Arising in the Willamette National Forest, the Mckenzie River is one of the largest Willamette River tributaries and is a stronghold for Wild Spring Chinook Salmon that rely on its pure water and clean gravels to spawn. Photo: David Herasimtschuk, Freshwaters Illustrated
Oregon’s McKenzie River has a lot to boast about. One of the cleanest and coldest rivers in the country, it’s the most important tributary for wild spring Chinook salmon and Bull trout production in the entire Willamette River Basin. It’s part of more than 100 miles of streams that the Willamette National Forest and many partners have restored over the last 10 years.
“What happens around these headwaters has important implications downstream,” said Kate Meyer, a fisheries biologist on the Willamette National Forest. “Land managed by the Forest Service makes up 66 percent of the McKenzie River Sub-basin and 24 percent of the Willamette River Basin, and it’s the source of 74 percent and 31 percent of the water feeding each river respectively.” Read more »
Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)
The bull trout in the McKenzie River on the Willamette National Forest have a survival story to tell, thanks to U.S. Forest Service stewardship of local rivers and fresh, healthy sources of groundwater.
“We’re reintroducing the top predator back into the river ecosystem,” said Ray Rivera, the district fisheries biologist on the forest’s McKenzie River Ranger District. “Their presence means two things to us. First, because bull trout are very sensitive to environmental changes compared to other salmonid fishes, their existence means the river’s water quality is excellent and the physical quality of their habitat is also good. Second, since bull trout are the top predator and they are doing well this means the overall ecosystem is doing well. Their presence is an excellent barometer of a river’s health.” Read more »