coal creek floodplain restoration


Upper Middle Fork Willamette, approximately 24 miles south of Oakridge, OR

Target Habitat



Floodplain construction complete (June-July 2019)

Trail construction expected fall 2019

Project Size

25 acres – 0.3 stream miles


US Forest Service Middle Fork Ranger District, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife



From June 20th to July 3rd 2019,  we worked with the USFS Middle Fork Ranger District (MFRD) and Haley Construction to restore 25 acres of floodplain habitat on Coal Creek in the Upper Middle Fork Willamette Watershed. This 0.3-mile section of Coal Creek is just above the confluence with the Middle Fork Willamette River, a location where the stream should be fanning out across the floodplain and creating diverse habitat for fish and wildlife. However, due to human-caused changes over the past several decades, Coal Creek was confined to its channel and, therefore, flowing fast like a fire hose which altered the natural stream processes and reduced the quality and diversity of the habitat.

To reconnect Coal Creek to its floodplain and restore processes, elevations across the project area needed to be smoothed out so that water could flow in any direction. Based on plans from the project team (MFRD and MFWWC), Haley Construction cleared eight acres of vegetation so that they could redistribute approximately 8,000 cubic yards of material. Haley then buried and scattered approximately 800 trees, many with rootwads attached, across the floodplain to keep the stream from cutting down into a new channel and to help spread flow. Haley Construction worked extremely fast, finishing the project a week early and under budget!

We are excited that this floodplain habitat will once again be dynamic. It will provide a plethora of native species with refugia from fast moving water; vegetation, macroinvertebrates, and nutrients to forage; and gravels in which to spawn and rear young.

Integrating restoration with recreation

The Middle Fork Trail, a National Recreation Trail, begins at Timpanogas Lake and follows the Middle Fork Willamette River to Hills Creek Reservoir. During that journey, the trail passes through diverse ecosystems while also providing a diversity of trail experiences for recreationists, including mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians, and anglers, as they explore the headwaters of the Willamette River. The trail is about 30 miles long and part of it recently passed through the Coal Creek floodplain restoration project area. In order to complete our restoration project, we needed to move the trail out of the floodplain. Through interdisciplinary vision at the MFRD, grant dollars, and volunteer time, we are working to move the trail out of the floodplain, add almost three miles of exciting new single track, and move the trail off of the road for this section.

Approximately 0.75 miles of the new trail has been completed by local volunteer groups and students (Disciples of Dirt, Greater Oakridge Area Trail Stewards, Alpine Trail Crew Association, Trans-Cascadia, Twin Rivers Charter School). For the remaining 2.15 miles of trail we plan to hire a professional trail builder as the terrain is very difficult and requires a high level of skill and ability. This project will happen over the next year, but in the meantime the trail will remain open to users. 

This work is being done thanks to funding from the National Forest Foundation. The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF improves forest health and Americans’ outdoor experiences. The NFF’s programs inform millions of Americans about the importance of these treasured landscapes. Each year, the NFF restores fish and wildlife habitat, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, improves recreational opportunities, and enables communities to steward their National Forests and Grasslands. 


Follow along in the slideshow below to see what goes into a project this large!


Watch as large equipment works to even out the elevations so that water can spread across the floodplain.