Newly completed floodplain restoration along Washington’s Upper Elochoman River will benefit threatened fish species and other wildlife.
The summer’s end here at Columbia Land Trust signals the wrap of a few big restoration projects, including our Upper Elochoman River In-Stream Enhancement Project. The restoration work improved important freshwater fish and salmon habitat and restored upland forests beneficial to struggling marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl.
Nearly five years after the project began, we’re seeing phenomenal changes happening in and along the river.
“This reach of the river supports summer steelhead as well as resident rainbow and cutthroat trout, which we could see feeding in and around the newly installed, in-water wood structures almost immediately,” said Land Trust natural area manager Jeff Malone.
The Elochoman River, located outside of Cathlamet, Washington in Wahkiakum County, drains a roughly 80-square-mile watershed in southwestern Washington and is a tributary to the Lower Columbia Estuary. The river historically supported thousands of salmon and steelhead, but due to habitat loss and deforestation, naturally-spawning salmonid numbers have plummeted over the past 50 years. In 2011, Columbia Land Trust conserved 135 acres of riparian corridor, 11 tributaries, 10 acres of wetlands, and nearly 3 miles of river frontage.
Over the course of the restoration project, Land Trust crews and contractors have:
- Installed 15 engineered log jams in the Elochoman River for fish habitat diversity
- Installed 20 smaller habitat wood complexes in two of its tributaries
- Realigned one of the river’s tributaries, increasing its length four-fold
- Removed or abandoned thousands of feet of old logging roads
- Enhanced forest stands on over 60 acres of the property by thinning, creating snags, placing downed wood, and planting a variety of native conifers.
In the end, we used over 350 logs sourced from the property to create the structures that will help to return the river to its natural floodplain. The structures will activate additional floodplain, provide pool habitat, increase habitat diversity, sort gravel to provide spawning habitat, and provide food resources for fish.
We’re grateful to the following funders for their critical support: Washington State RCO Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board, United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic (LEX-NG) Fund, The JW & HM Goodman Family Foundation, The Seattle Audubon Society’s Martin Miller Fund, the Demuth Foundation, and finally the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Fund for making this project possible. Thanks also to our contractors at Natural Systems Design, Henderson LLC, and Johnson and Sons Excavation & Trucking LLC.
View images of the Elochoman River and the surrounding forestland below. Photos by Doug Gorsline