In Southern California, where I grew up, we witnessed the loss of rivers that once held mighty runs of steelhead — lost to the never ending miles of concrete. Out of ignorance and over development, stream beds became concrete raceways devoid of rocks, gravel, trees and riparian habitat. Believe it or not, the LA River once hosted 8,000 winter steelhead, and today 0. On visits to my hometown, I imagine what was…. Look around in any city, and you’ll see the same thing happening.
Now, living in the Bear Creak Valley, it’s easy to see the neglect and disregard taking place on what once was the major spawning tributary for salmon and steelhead on the Rogue. Grizzly bears used to prowl the banks in the hunt for salmon in the fall, hence the name Bear Creek. The griz are gone but the salmon and steelhead remain. Albeit not in the same numbers, but they’re there, trying. We still have a chance.
Bear Creek drains some 400 sq miles with many tributaries — Jackson, Lazy, Dean, Griffin, Lone Pine, Larson, Ashland and Wagner Creeks to name a few. These are all fish-bearing tributaries of Bear Creek and the fish use them in many different ways, from spawning, rearing, and high-water refugia. These small tribs are invaluable and are often the most over-looked. They offer summer steelhead spawning and rearing habitat through winter and spring, but some of them dry up in the summer, which is completely natural. These small, sometimes dry, creeks are easily forgotten by residents and city planners who we’ve heard say “no fish could ever live there” and as a direct result of that type of thinking, these creeks have paid the price.
Unpassable colverts, diversions, tributaries paved over by parking lots and channelized. These creeks face substantial problems. And they are not getting the attention they deserve.
Something needed to be done!
Over the past few years, I’ve been helping Scott Howell with two fish ladder projects, whose passion for these streams is infectious. These fish ladders opened up miles of habitat to both adult and juvenile steelhead. A fish ladder on Jackson Creek opened up 10 miles of habitat to steelhead that hadn’t been available to them for 50 years and they are using it! A fish ladder on Lazy Creek is now being utilized by steelhead, chinook and coho for important spawning grounds, juvenille refuge, and spring rearing habitat. All of the materials (concrete, cinderblock, yards of rock, rebar, hardware cloth, etc.) to build these first two fish ladders have been funded out of Scott’s pocket.
Today, I’m asking for your support to help us with future steelhead habitat restoration projects by donating what you can to the Rogue Basin Fish Ladder Projects via gofundme. It would greatly help out and goes directly to projects that actually get done, with results!
Below I’ve added a series of pics with some details of what we’ve been up to… and I’ll be keeping you up to date on what’s up and future projects.
Two future projects your donation would be helping fund:
The building of lower Lazy Creek fish ladder
Hours were spent here, not a single fish made it.
Ladder at work
Jackson Creek fish ladder project
First proof of an adult above the ladder, so cool! Now on to fish traps and monitoring for spawning success.
About 50 young of the year being released. We have 4 traps set up and being monitored everyday.
Steelhead smolt being released for their jouney downstream to the ocean
There are still many projects to be done. With the results we’ve had in the first two, I’m looking forward to opening up more habitat to the fish we all love to chase. In this ever-changing world, they need it and deserve it.
Thanks for any support you can give!