The South Santiam Watershed Council has selected the Hamilton Creek subbasin as a priority for restoration and enhancement. Through it’s involvement with the Willamette Model Watershed Program the SSWC is currently engaging landowners in conducting voluntary stream restoration practices.
The Hamilton Creek sub-basin is a nearly 24,000 acre drainage that enters the South Santiam River at ~RM 23. There are 12 miles of anadromous fish habitat (winter steelhead) along the lower gradient reaches found on the mainstem of Hamilton Creek, before an 8 ft. high falls limits upstream passage. The predominate land use in the sub-basin is private forestry, but the lower stretches of Hamilton Creek are largely characterized by grass seed fields and pasture land. According to the Watershed Analysis for Hamilton Creek (BLM, 1995), about 3 miles of anadromous fish habitat is found within land managed for forestry. Tributaries include Jack, Scott and Deer Creeks.
Limiting factors in the Hamilton Creek sub-basin are similar to those in McDowell Creeks, with lower stretches of Hamilton Creek lacking in mature, dense riparian vegetation. Hamilton Creek is listed on the state 303(d) list as having too warm summer stream temperatures. The stream is lacking in LWD, and the draft Recovery Plan recommends Hamilton Creek as a “good candidate stream” for LWD placement. Hamilton Creek has moderate potential for de-watering, and is also noted in the Recovery Plan for being a tributary to explore leasing water rights. The South Santiam Watershed Assessment notes Hamilton Creek as a Priority I watershed for restoration
The Hamilton Creek sub-basin also offers unique conservation opportunities identified in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The sub-basin includes upland areas that serve as an important transition zone between Willamette Valley eco-regions. Oak woodlands and savannah in combination with grass and wetlands are key habitats in these areas. Conservation opportunities exist for maintaining these critical habitats and for species that utilize them, including yellow legged and red legged frogs.
As of 2011, the SSWC has begun site preparation at several areas within the Hamilton Creek subbasin. These sites will be cleared of noxious, invasive weeds and replaced with native vegetation. The native trees and shrubs will help provide stream shade and fish and wildlife habitat.
As activities progress, updates will be provided here.