Hurst Creek Log Jams Quickly Show Benefits for Salmon

By Jamie Bass, Olympics Field Forester

The videos below were taken on Nov. 14 and Nov. 21, two weeks on the Olympic coast where we got 5 and 8 inches of rain, respectively. As you can see, the log jams are not only slowing water down, but broadening and shallowing the flow, depositing sediments on Hurst Creek’s banks and catching woody debris and leaf litter. To give some context, the water came up about 8 feet to get high enough to top the jam (and nearly wash our cameras away!).

These videos show one of my favorite things about Washington streams and forests (and foresters): Messy is good!

These jams were installed, led by the Quinault Indian Nation on the Clearwater Forest Reserve, as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Hurst Creek Habitat Restoration Pilot Project. Its goals were to:

  • Restore physical and ecological processes associated with the formation of complex in-stream habitat in Hurst Creek, benefiting Clearwater coho salmon and winter steelhead
  • Increase Clearwater coho salmon productivity by improving the quality and quantity of coho-rearing habitat in Hurst Creek.

Kyle Smith, our Washington forest manager pictured at right, at the site of the first log jam in Hurst Creek. Photo © Jamie Bass.

The outcomes of the project are to be used to demonstrate the efficacy of the restoration approach for future restoration phases in Hurst Creek as well as in streams of similar condition, thus functioning to inform future restoration efforts and reduce restoration costs.

To give an idea of what the creek looked like before, take a look at the above photo with Kyle Smith, our Washington forest manager, and the operator installing the first log jam just over two years ago. The creek is deeply channelized, with cut banks under a slope at the far side, and cobble size is high and blocky in the stream bed.

A Hurst Creek log jam in summer 2017. Photo © Nikolaj Lasbo / TNC

Now, on my first day on the job in October 2017, even with the stream low, a 20-inch salmon swam right past my boots up stream of this jam along a much more meandering, smooth creek bottom.

Based on the success of these jams, we’re currently planning to install more on longer stretches of Clearwater River tributaries. But more projects like these can't move forward without a state capital budget.

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