Western Rivers Conservancy protected the lower portions of Drift Creek and the Alsea River estuary, which together offer some of the best habitat remaining in Oregon for threatened coastal coho salmon.
The project area begins at a magnificent waterfall and then follows Drift Creek along its last five miles before it flows into Alsea Bay near Waldport, Oregon. Drift Creek slows into a meandering pattern that feeds rich wetlands, with sloughs and backwaters that are ideal rearing habitat for juvenile coho salmon. In 2002, WRC purchased 1,400 acres along this stretch of Drift Creek, which set the stage for a large coho recovery effort on the land, now part of the Siuslaw National Forest. The property also contains the North Channel of the Alsea River, a backwater area with eelgrass beds and saltwater marsh that serves as a nursery for young fish and spawning grounds for marine species. About half the area is forested, primarily with Douglas fir on the upland slopes and red alder in the riparian zone. The remainder is wetland and pasture.
One key to recovery is the Alsea Bay estuary, which still has unusually large areas of salt marsh in excellent condition. In November 2010, WRC made a second purchase, a 287-acre parcel that fronts some of the last unprotected salt marsh in the bay. We conveyed the property to Siuslaw National Forest in late 2012, and it has become a vital part of the restoration effort.
The Alsea River was once the most productive coho salmon stream in Oregon, and this project offers the most promising opportunity for habitat restoration in the Alsea Bay estuary and dramatic improvement of coho salmon habitat. Drift Creek also supports a healthy run of fall chinook as well as spring chinook, winter steelhead, cutthroat trout and other species.
Additionally, project area is downstream from the Drift Creek Wilderness Area, which is very popular with outdoor enthusiasts including anglers, boaters and hikers. Public acquisition of the lower stream brings improved access to Drift Creek and better opportunities for boating.
Critical support for our work on the Drift Creek - Alsea River was provided by the Meyer Memorial Trust, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wiancko Charitable Foundation, James H. Stanard Foundation, Lisa Hansen, Douglas Rathkamp and Amy Wheat.
Photo credits: Russ Schnitzer (1,8), Josh Kling, Peter Marbach (3,5,6), Barrie Kovish, Bob Keller, Jenny DuVander (9,10)