Restoring Finn Rock Reach

A River Through Time

Throughout the pacific northwest, our rivers hold a dynamic legacy of pristine water, abundant salmon runs and breathtaking views. Throughout their history, these rivers, and the people who settled along their banks, have also shaped the west as we know it today. Before the railroad arrived in the early 1900’s, Oregon’s rivers served as the primary transportation route for timber and agricultural goods. By the 1940’s, the power of these wild rivers began to provide economic growth in the form of hydropower. Through the many events that have unfolded between colonization of the west by white settlers and the first Environmental Protection Act signed in 1970, people have re-shaped, and redefined what it means to be a wild river.

Photo Courtesy of Tim Giraudier- Beautiful Oregon
Floodplain Restoration on the South Fork McKenzie River | McKenzie Watershed Council

Restoring Rivers in the Upper Willamette Watershed

Since 2006, McKenzie River Trust has implemented dozens of river-based restoration projects. Each project addressed negative human impacts by allowing for more natural movement of water across the floodplain. These projects take place in areas where there will be no negative impacts to neighboring lands, commerce, or recreation and all include intensive hydrologic modeling and engineering before implementation. At Finn Rock Reach, our work is based on restoring riverine processes through following the model of a rivers natural lifecycle. 

The Lifecycle of a River

Just like living creatures have lifecycles, rivers do too. As time progresses, rivers usually move through a multi-step process that takes place between large flood events. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the installation of dams has impacted our rivers’ ability to move through all of its natural “life” stages. That’s why at Finn Rock Reach, we’ll be implementing a stage based design that will replicate the impacts of a large flood, while containing the impacts to a smaller area where threatened and endangered species, including Spring Chinook Salmon, Western Pond Turtles, and Pacific Lamprey are present. 

Powers PD, Helstab M, Niezgoda SL “A process-based approach to restoring depositional river valleys to Stage 0, an anastomosing channel network”. 2018

Restoration Project Goals

  • Increase wetland areas and aquatic habitat around the Elk Creek side-channel
  • Slow and spread water across the floodplain to improve habitat for juvenile Spring Chinook Salmon
  • Increase nesting habitat for Western Pond Turtles 
  • Address stream erosion issues and reconnect the Elk Creek channel to its historic floodplain
  • Create space for water to move, mitigating against flood related issues

Fire impacted floodplain at Finn Rock Reach

Finn Rock Reach Restoration Timeline

The Finn Rock Project will take place on land owned and managed by McKenzie River Trust. Beginning in June of 2021, McKenzie River Trust Staff, partners, and local contractors will begin the restoration process. The project will take place during a salmon-safe window of time with completion happening before the end of August 2021. Work includes temporary channel diversion, fish salvage, earth work, large wood placement, and re-watering of the Elk Creek side channel that flows through the Finn Rock Reach property. Once the project is complete, we will invite community members to join in replanting efforts on-site through our Friends of Finn Rock Reach volunteer programs.   

What to Expect

During the Finn Rock Reach restoration project, McKenzie River Trust staff, partners, and local contractors will be on-site. Many parts of the project include the movement of soil and placement of logs using heavy machinery. Work will happen in the footprint of the Elk Creek side channel. We will be temporarily diverting water out of the project area. Once work is complete, we will re-water the area. Click on the representative images below to learn more about the different project stages! 

Explore Our Maps

The Finn Rock Reach Restoration project has been in the design phase since 2017. We invite you to explore some of the maps here to learn more about our planning process.

For more project information, please feel free to explore our project maps or reach out to us at info@mckenzieriver.org

HabiChats! Presentation on Floodplain Restoration at Finn Rock Reach

Our beloved McKenzie River provides drinking water to more than 200,000 people and is a recreational centerpiece for our region. Its crystalline waters are considered the last stronghold for wild salmon in the Willamette River system. Both people and fish depend on its purity. The Homewaters Campaign was a community effort to fund the purchase, protection and stewardship of Finn Rock Reach and two miles of riverfront on the Middle McKenzie River.