Hamilton Creek Restoration

Today, Hamilton Creek, located in the Columbia River Gorge in Skamania County, Washington, supports runs of coho salmon and steelhead. Historically, Hamilton Creek was home to abundant winter steelhead, chum, coho, and fall Chinook runs who utilized its diversity of aquatic habitats for their various life stage needs. Large sections of the creek were impacted by road development, timber harvest and forest fires, leaving it without the large wood jams and streamside vegetation that are necessary for healthy salmonid habitats. In 2017, the Estuary Partnership worked with the US Forest Service and local contractors to add this missing large wood and vegetation to a one mile stretch of the creek.

Hamilton before
Hamilton Creek before the project

To restore the area, crew members with contractor LKE Corporation added 200 pieces of large wood to the creek and planted 9,000 conifers and willows along the stream banks. The large wood was harvested nearby and flown in by Columbia Helicopters, allowing some of the hardest-to-access habitats to be improved with minimal on-the-ground impacts.

helicopters flying in large wood
Columbia Helicopters harvested large wood nearby and flew it to the creek site.

The large wood was placed in-stream to create habitat complexity elements such as structural stream cover, scour pools, gravel retention, and off-channel habitats that are critical for juvenile salmonid rearing and adult spawning. These off-channel habitats also provide areas of cool refuge for fish to escape warmer summer water temperatures. The riparian plantings provide shade to the creek, stabilize the soils, and will eventually add to the large wood within the creek.

Crews add large wood to Hamilton Creek
Crews with LKE add large wood to Hamilton Creek.

Other imperiled species expected to benefit from the restoration project include northern spotted owls, cutthroat trout, and lamprey.

Hamilton Creek post-construction December 2017
Hamilton Creek post-construction in December 2017


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Project Partners
US Forest Service Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

US Forest Service
Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board