Extraordinary by any standard, the Wild and Scenic Elk River is often cited as one of the finest salmon and steelhead fisheries on the West Coast. Rising from the remote Siskiyou Mountains and Coast Range of southern Oregon, the Elk flows 32 miles through deep gorges and lush old-growth forests to meet the Pacific Ocean near the town of Port Orford. Wild fall Chinook, coho, winter steelhead and sea-run cutthroat trout all thrive in its waters.
Acting on a brief window of opportunity in October 2007, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased a property along the Elk to save it from development. The 170-acre parcel is located at the confluence of the Elk River and an important tributary, Rock Creek. The Elk has the highest density of spawning coho of any stream on the Oregon Coast, and this very stretch of Rock Creek is critical to maintaining these strong coho populations. The remainder of the Rock Creek sub-basin is part of the Siskiyou National Forest and managed as the Rock Creek Roadless Area.
By protecting this property, WRC connects and enhances habitat in the adjoining landscape, which is the largest block of intact forest in the Oregon Coast Range. Here, Port Orford cedar trees reach five feet in diameter, and Douglas fir grow even bigger. Nearby areas of matchless habitat include the Grassy Knob Wilderness Area adjacent to the property, the Copper Salmon Wilderness Area and the Iron Mountain Botanical Area at the Elk’s headwaters, where rare plants grow in distinctive, nutrient-poor soils.
In 2012, WRC conveyed the Rock Creek property to the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to be managed for fish and wildlife habitat protection and low-impact recreation.
Photo credits: Russ Schnitzer (1,3,4,5), Wood Sabold