Trout Creek is a major tributary to the Deschutes River in central Oregon and the largest producer of steelhead in the entire Deschutes Basin. However, until recently Trout Creek was running dry in the late summer months due to water withdrawals for irrigation. In addition, cattle grazing along stream beds were denuding riparian vegetation and raising water temperatures.
In the middle of this troubled waterway lay Trout Creek Ranch, a 3,000-acre property with a high potential for premier fish habitat, 3.7 miles of stream banks and senior water rights to Trout Creek flows. The ranch also provides diverse habitat for wildlife, including Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, wild turkey, bald eagle, golden eagle, osprey, Swainson's hawk and Townsend's big-eared bat.
A group of conservation-minded citizens purchased Trout Creek Ranch in 1994 and began a long-term restoration effort. When the landowners began looking for a permanent steward for the land, Western Rivers Conservancy offered a solution. In a partnership with PGE and the Oregon Water Trust, Western Rivers Conservancy purchased the ranch in 1999, transferred the property to Portland General Electric (PGE) for long-term management, and enabled the donation of instream water rights. PGE has undertaken an aggressive restoration program that shows great promise for improving fish habitat in Trout Creek, contributing to the health of Deschutes River trout and steelhead populations.
Photo credits: Mat Millenbach