Dunawi Creek was named in 2003 after the Kalapuyan word for female elders. Before 2001, the creek was named Squaw Creek. Because “squaw” has offensive connotations, Colleen Roba and Olivia Wallulatum of the Warm Springs Tribal Office of Government Affairs successfully lobbied the name change. They encouraged collaboration and received support from the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Oregon Geographic Names Board, Benton County Board of Commissioners, Corvallis City Council, plus Oregon and U.S. officials.
Dunawi Creek of Kalapuyan era (pre-1850) was comprised of many headwater streams originating from low elevation hills, such as Bald Hill and Country Club Hill (formerly known as Oak Butte and Weigand Hill).
Dunawi Creek Statistics
- 2,363 acres – Drains just over 25% of the City of Corvallis.
- 2 miles long – The length is measured from Bald Hill down to its outfall into the Marys River, and includes both the length of the North Branch and its relatively parallel South Branch.
- Highest point – 755 ft at Bald Hill, the source of both the North and South Branches of Dunawi Creek
- Lowest point – 212 ft at the confluence with the Marys River across from Avery Park, just after it flows under SW Brooklane Drive south of Philomath Blvd. Dunawi Creek enters the Marys River about 200 yards upriver of the Oak Creek outfall into the river.
- Main tributaries – The North Branch flows from the east side of Bald Hill in the Bald Hill Natural Area and the South Branch from the south side of Bald Hill in the Bald Hill Natural Area. All remaining tributaries have been covered or piped.
- Ownership – 33% of the watershed is low-density residential & 26% is open space.
- Paved or built impervious surfaces – Over 32% of the entire watershed, which is over 762 acres, is covered with pavement or buildings.
- Over 25 creek bridges – Dunawi Creek is crossed by a road or pedestrian bridge about every 1/5 of a mile. Both the North and South Branches each have 11 crossings and the final combined creek has 3 crossings.
- Redirected, channelized, deeply incised – The creek and its former tributaries have been covered over with dirt, bridged, channelized and moved in some places from its original course. The channel has been deepened by construction equipment and has been further deeply incised downward from excessive, high-velocity and high-volume stormwater drainage from the City’s municipal stormwater piping system. The confluence of the North and South Branches was clearly reconfigured into its highly unnatural perpendicular configuration.
- Pollution status – Creek water temperature is one of the most dangerous forms of pollution for native fish in Dunawi Creek. Because portions of the creek are exposed to full sun, both solar radiation and air temperature elevate the creek temperatures in summer to levels making it difficult for native fish to survive.
- Fish barriers – The most significant fish barrier is at the confluence of the creek with the Marys River. The steep stone embankment, accompanied by a relatively low outlet flow rate, only allows fish passage during high flow rates during storms. In addition, an elevated culvert runs under 35th Street by Adams Elementary School displays high blockage levels during non-rain event days.
- Wetlands – The Dunawi watershed still has significant wetland acreage. Some of these wetlands are at great risk from commercial, residential and governmental development pressures.
- Fish in Dunawi Creek – Investigations discovered Oregon chub, three-spined stickleback, redside shiners, and sculpin. The biomass was dominated by the non-native invasive species western mosquitofish and predatory bluegill.
Northern Boundary – Bald Hill is the northwest corner of the northern boundary, draining southeasterly on flattened lowlands bordering Oak Creek’s southern watershed boundary, all the way to the Marys River. The lowland boundary with Oak Creek is in some places indecipherable by eye and has been significantly altered by human land movement.
Western Boundary – Bald Hill is also the western boundary.
Southern Boundary – Four hills (380 ft, 300 ft, 300 ft and 460 ft elevation) line the southern border from Barley Hill to Country Club Hill (formerly called Oak Butte and Weigand Hill).
Eastern Boundary – Its outfall into the Marys River.
Lost Tributaries of Dunawi Creek
According to the 1921 US Geological Survey, the headwater stream flowing off the eastern slope of Bald Hill included three tributaries that flowed across the first lowland field at the bottom of the hill.
Today, that field is owned by the City of Corvallis and has been tilled, sprayed, cultivated with commercial grass seed and harvested annually for many decades. None of those three lowland tributary channels exist today. There is currently an effort to revive those streams to their natural setting.
Water Action Team Activities in Dunawi Creek
- Partnered with the Marys Peak Group of the Sierra Club, the City of Corvallis and the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District in 2010 and 2016 to lead tours of Dunawi Creek.
- Discovered and researched the Lost Creeks of Dunawi Creek.
- Provided consultation to residents to collect rainwater in cisterns to prevent the unnatural rapid runoff surges into storm drains and creeks during heavy rains.
- Developing interpretive displays depicting the Dunawi Creek Watershed and the regeneration of lost tributaries.
- Reconnecting the headwaters of the North Branch of Dunawi Creek with downstream. The initial upstream lowlands of this creek has been tilled, sprayed, planted with commercial grass seed and harvested every year right over the stream. The City is working in partnership with our team to stop these practices on City land and to reconnect the upper and lower portions of this creek.