News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Making the Metolius a healthy home

For more than a decade, the Forest Service has been making home improvements for the fish population of the Metolius River.

Last week, work crews conducted the latest phase of a project adding large logs and downed trees into the stream to restore fish habitat.

The work is part of an ongoing project that began in 2008 to restore large wood to the river to improve fish habitat. Nearly 1,000 trees have been placed in the river since that time. Certain areas were left alone to act as a “control” sample for the effects of the additional habitat.

“The monitoring we did on the fish showed 300 percent increase in chinook [salmon],” said Deschutes National Forest Fisheries Biologist Wendy Brewer.

Redband trout saw a 200 percent increase.

Such results encouraged the Forest Service to fill in the control areas with additional habitat.

The project mimics historical conditions when “tree falls would pretty much choke this river,” Brewer explained.

The new habitat won’t choke the stream now — in fact, care is taken to make sure no logs span the channel so that kayakers can navigate safely.

The logs quickly become overgrown with grasses and other plants.

“These trees pretty much turn into islands in the stream,” Brewer said.

These “islands” offer cover for fish, protecting them for predators. They make for spawning areas for redband trout and they slow the current of the river.

“They slow the flow down,” Brewer said. “The fish aren’t expending so much energy to hang out in the stream flow.”

Skilled heavy equipment operators trucked in approximately 80 large logs and downed trees, unloaded them and placed them in the river at 20 different locations, from Riverside Campground in Camp Sherman downstream.

The logs come from Central Electric Cooperative projects that removed hazard trees from the route of powerlines. Concerns about trees falling and damaging powerlines and potentially sparking wildfires — as has happened with catastrophic results in several areas in the West — prompted these projects.

Salvaging those logs for use as habitat adds a “win” to the project.

Once the logs are placed in the stream, the trails and streambank areas impacted by the movement of heavy equipment will be restored to their pre-project state.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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