Students rehab Whychus Creek banks


Last updated 11/10/2021 at Noon

Sisters youth are helping to restore the creek that runs through their hometown.

Sisters High School (SHS) juniors in the Interdisciplinary Experiential Education (IEE) program participated in the planting of streamside vegetation to rehabilitate the banks of Whychus Creek, where the 17th and final dam/irrigation diversion was removed to allow for safe fish migration in the creek.

Two groups of about 20 students each spent the afternoon on two days October 26-27, planting 450 small starts of red twig dogwood, willow, and spirea, all native to the area and grown by Clearwater Native Plant Nursery from cuttings taken along the creek. Using local materials enhances the plants’ chances of getting established and surviving. The roots of the plants act like fingers in the soil, holding water and stopping erosion, as well as providing shade for fish in the creek.

The students were led in their efforts by Kolleen Miller, education director for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC) and Mathias Perle, UDWC program manager, who has worked for over a decade on habitat and restoration along Whychus Creek with projects to re-meander the creek and create fish passage.

Three Sisters Irrigation District did all of the instream work on the creek, adding boulders and smaller rocks to recreate the original slope of the creek after removing the dam, which created a five-foot drop in the creek bed. There is now a 400-foot natural riffle where the dam used to be (see related story on

page 9).

The students were provided with gloves and trowels to do the planting. One group of students donned fishing waders to cross the creek and plant the far bank. Two juniors, Sage Wyland and Zoey Lorusso, agreed that experiences like this with IEE are a great way to apply science to the outdoors.

“It provides a good experience,” they said.

The girls also talked about their night spent in a snow cave they dug near Mt. Bachelor. They had participated in the ECOS program at Sisters Middle School as eighth graders.

Accompanying and supervising the students were senior class interns who were IEE students last year. Intern Oly Thorson said she wanted to be an intern to “make IEE special for them (juniors) just like it was for me.” After all the plants were safely in the ground, the students were asked to take a little time and write a reflection about their experience, as if they were the creek (see “Reflections on Whychus Creek” below).

Miller congratulated the students for a job well done, saying, “They did a great job. In fact, the students do a better job than a lot of the adults who come out to plant.”

IEE is conducted over two quarters, in the fall and spring. The goal of the program is to create a sense of stewardship and place by getting the students out into Sisters’ backyard. the surrounding forest and mountain wilderness, for hands-on learning in environmental science, physical education, and language arts. The teachers involved in the IEE program include Glen Herron, Samra Spear, and Rand Runco.

The IEE program has served as the initial step for a number of SHS students who have pursued a career in the environmental sciences and related fields.


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