Mountain Creek is listed within the John Day Basin Recovery Plan as a high priority watershed for the spawning and rearing of steelhead. Some key limiting factors for steelhead recovery are fish passage, water quality, habitat complexity, and water quantity. To date, numerous projects have been conducted on Mountain Creek to address these limiting factors. It is agreed upon by local restoration partners that the biggest impact on these limiting factors is found in this area. Due to flooding in the 1950’s, Mountain Creek was forced into a by-pass channel that routes all flow along the north side of the meadow and offers little to no habitat quality or complexity.
The project site is located on Mountain Creek along Highway 26, approximately 15 miles east of Mitchell. The site is approximately 5.5 miles upstream of the confluence of Mountain Creek and Rock Creek. The restoration of Mountain Creek into the historic channel has not only eliminated a huge limiting factor in steelhead recovery, but also created 3.0 miles of high quality habitat that was historically available.
This project benefited steelhead in Mountain Creek by correcting a fish passage barrier and creating habitat complexity along the historic channel. Within the historic channel there was a culvert that was a fish passage barrier that was replaced improving access for steelhead. Fish passage barriers and low flows prevented access to habitat within the historic channel. Root wads were installed with this project to provide beneficial habitat features for all life stages of salmonids. As fish passage is the foundation of population recovery, restoration efforts in Mountain Creek focused on restoring stream-simulated passage at degraded crossings and diversions.