A Day at Fourmile Creek – Klamath Basin, OR
19th of Apr 2017
By Nancy Burgon & Todd Wells
A canoe, a bluebird sky and miles of pristine stream to explore! As volunteer retirees, Advocates for the West’s Oregon Office asked us to assess the impacts of cattle grazing on the endangered Oregon spotted frogs along Fourmile Creek in the Klamath Basin.
Why Are Oregon Spotted Frogs Endangered?
As the most aquatic native frog in the Northwest, spotted frogs need dependable sources of water throughout their life cycle for breeding, rearing and overwintering. Unfortunately, since the early 1900s, over 80% of the natural wetlands in the Klamath Basin have been drained and converted to agriculture — some 275,000 acres!
What’s Special About Fourmile Creek?
In a word, the water. Fed primarily by perennial Fourmile Spring at its head, Fourmile Creek meanders for 2.5 miles through 1,500 acres of natural grasslands, sedge marshes and wetlands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation. Though heavily grazed by cattle in years past, this perennial stream and its riparian wetlands somehow escaped being ditched and drained for farming.
From a canoe, the second special feature of Fourmile Creek quickly becomes apparent: its robust beaver population. Nearly every channel, including the main stream, has at least one beaver dam across it. This is great news for the spotted frogs, which depend upon the warm, shallow waters behind these low dams for breeding habitat. These shallows also deter grazing cattle, if drier upland forage is available to them.
What’s Advocates for the West’s Involvement at Fourmile Creek?
Since 2010, Advocates for the West has been working in the Klamath and Deschutes River basins of Oregon to restore water flows and prevent grazing damage to critical spotted frog habitats, plus monitor important sites like Fourmile Creek. After our site survey, we were pleased to report that cattle damage to the riparian wetlands here was minimal — at least for this year!
Todd and Nancy are a retired couple who live along the Deschutes River south of Bend, Oregon, and enjoy doing volunteer projects for Advocates for the West. Nancy is a former elementary teacher in international schools and Todd is a former geographer who worked for conservation organizations.