Salt Creek is a small, spring-fed tributary to upper Little Butte Creek near the community of Lake Creek. The spring-fed nature of this stream means that it has suitably cool water over most of its length to support over-summering coho salmon and steelhead/rainbow trout. Such streams are very important nursery areas for these species, all of which spend at least one summer as juveniles in freshwater before migrating to the ocean. And Little Butte Creek is one of just a few really productive stream networks in the Rogue Basin for coho salmon, putting an even greater priority on streams within this watershed that provide cool temperatures all summer long.
The Rogue River Watershed Council is working on six Salt Creek barriers that impede fish movement. Four of these dams will be addressed by restorative work in 2020 and 2021. These four dams are all channel-spanning, gravel push-up dams that are constructed annually to divert water into canals that eventually carry water to flood-irrigated pastures. Each dam is built in May and removed in October using heavy equipment to create a pile of rock and dirt. These piles are usually further sealed with plastic sheeting. The downstream-most structure is located roughly 0.5-miles upstream of the confluence of Salt Creek and Little Butte Creek. This diversion is called Krumweide # 1 and is roughly five-feet high. This dam completely blocks adult fall Chinook salmon seeking spawning habitat in Salt Creek and stops juvenile coho salmon and steelhead / rainbow trout from migrating up Salt Creek to seek cooler water. Krumweide # 2 is 1.5 to 2-feet high and roughly 0.5-mile upstream of Krumweide # 1. The C-2 # 3 diversion dam is located at river mile four and is roughly four-feet tall while the C-2 # 4 diversion is located another mile upstream and is five-feet tall. These three diversions only block juvenile coho salmon and steelhead / rainbow trout as they try to find cooler water because Krumweide # 1 keeps fall Chinook salmon from reaching them. None of these dams markedly impact adult coho salmon or steelhead/rainbow trout movement because they are not in place during the times of the year that those fish are migrating.
Photo Credits: Rogue River Watershed Council