The Deschutes Watershed extends from Budd Inlet in South Puget Sound to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Approximately 26% of the watershed sits within a city or designated urban growth area. The lower Deschutes watershed runs through parts of Thurston County, Tumwater, and Olympia and is dominated by dense urban and residential areas that have contributed to a loss of habitat, a deterioration of water quality, aggressively erosion of riverbanks, and significant impacts to aquatic life from stormwater runoff. This has led to dramatic decreases in Coho salmon and companion species.
In 2022, OlyEcosystems conserved the largest intact habitat complex within the lower reaches of this rapidly urbanizing river system. This 367-acre preserve includes Douglas-fir forests, forested floodplains, upland prairie grasslands, and extensive wetland areas that support a wide range of fish and wildlife species. Over 65% of the property is considered riparian, consisting of mainstem floodplain and over 150 acres of emergent and open water wetlands that drain the entire 1.26 mile Ayer/Elwanger Creek basin from its headwaters to its confluence with the river. This creek has the potential to be an important cold-water refuge for juvenile salmonids and thus could become an important part of Coho recovery in this section of the river. This area is also an important aquifer recharge zone for the region and - if managed properly - has the potential to provide wildlife habitat while reducing flood risks in the cities of Tumwater and Olympia.
Restoration in the Deschutes mainstem will include placement of large woody debris to create shaded pools and side-channel habitat for fish, as well as revegetation of degraded sections of the riverbank. Restoration within the interior former farmland will include removal of a fish barrier on Elwanger Creek, demolition of derelict farm structures, bat habitat enhancement, invasive weed management, reforestation of former floodplain crop fields and the rewilding of 150 acres of wetlands that were degraded by a century and a half of lowlands grazing. Our approach will seek to recruit the local beaver population in order create an ever-evolving complex of vegetated wetlands and pools that are excellent salmon rearing habitat.