Regenerate a healthy, sustainable native vegetative buffer along Lamprey Creek as it drains through Dr. MLK, Jr. Park, promote the values of this resource to the public, and protect the surface waters from damaging human impacts throughout the watershed drainage
Lamprey Creek is a 3-mile-long upland creek that flows through four general land types from Dimple Hill, Skyline Ridge and Witham Hill into Oak Creek near Walnut Blvd. and Harrison Avenue. The four land types are:
- Steeply sloping upland hills
- Gradually sloping residential hills
- Upland meadow City parkland
- Lowland Oregon State University (OSU) agricultural land
Ownership: Sixty percent of the 800-acre watershed is owned by a combination of City of Corvallis and OSU. The remaining 40% of the watershed area is primarily residential.
Seasonal Flows: The upper half of the creek generally flows seasonally from November through August. The lower half flows all year round. Year-round flow is stimulated by a complex beaver dam system on OSU land.
Patterns of Flow: The lower half of Lamprey Creek supports a system of beaver dams, resulting in wetlands, reservoirs and braided streams. The upper watershed creek corridor consists of no beaver dam systems. The resulting flow drains through a relatively straight and incised channel that provides less aquatic habitat and poorer water quality.
Fauna: Charismatic fauna in the lower creek half includes American beaver, Pacific lamprey, cutthroat trout and Pacific giant salamander. All of these species depend on minimal human impacts on the creek. The upper watershed is highly impacted by developed residential properties, roads and a high-usage park, resulting in much less native aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.
Human Impacts: This previously unnamed creek was not treated as a life-supporting creek over the past 170 years of Euro-American settlement. The creek’s watercourse has been seriously diverted and altered multiple times for agricultural and residential purposes. The first housing development built in the upper watershed included a private wastewater system that overflowed directly into the creek. The City of Corvallis later forced proper sanitary discharge changes that kept the wastewater out of the creek. Further land development has resulted in increased human impacts upon the creek, despite stronger protection codes and enforcement. Additional riparian mitigation techniques are required to compensate for increased pollution, invasive plants and abnormal flow regimen patterns resulting from increased human impacts.
Dr. MLK, Jr. Park: Within the City-owned Dr. MLK, Jr. Park, much of the creek is protected by a defined riparian zone. However, invasion of exotic plant species, undersized culverts installed under trail crossings, lawn right up to the creek banks and overuse by off-leash dogs have all caused creek degradation in the City park. These issues are being addressed by the Lamprey Creek Riparian Regeneration Project.
Primary Phases of the Lamprey Creek Project
Watch the video below to learn about the naming of Lamprey Creek.
Phase #1 – Naming an Unnamed Creek (2014-2016)
In February 2014, a car spun out of control on NW Walnut Blvd. and landed in a creek. Emergency vehicles had trouble identifying the location of this unnamed creek and the car. Water Action Team members realized this important unnamed creek needed a name to help emergency responders, but also to help the public recognize and appreciate this living aquatic system. The locally-produced video “The Lost Fish” about the Pacific Lamprey inspired our team members to suggest “Lamprey Creek” as a proposed name. We proposed the name to partner organizations and initiated a collaborative process to have the creek so named by the Federal government.
The Oregon Geographic Names Board unanimously voted to recommend the name “Lamprey Creek” to the United State Geological Survey (USGS) for Federal approval. In late 2015, the USGS approved the name and have included it in all maps of the area. It is the first and only creek in the U.S. named Lamprey Creek. As a result of the naming, Lamprey Creek as now perceived as a place of importance. The creek is now being provided greater protection and attention by landowners and the public. And for some inexplicable reason, beavers have since moved into the stream corridor in great numbers since the naming. The naming was honored at a “Lamprey Creek Awakening Celebration” held at the Walnut Creek Fire Station/Community Center. (See video above) David Harrelson, Ampinefu Kalapuya member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, provided the blessing. Additional presentations were given by members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla, OSU and Corvallis City Council.
Partnerships and Endorsements
The team was joined by the following organizations in endorsing the renaming:
- Benton County, Oregon
- City of Corvallis, Oregon
- Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
- Freshwaters Illustrated
- Marys Peak Group Sierra Club
- Marys River Watershed Council
- Native Fish Society
- Oregon Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit
- Oregon State University
- Skyline West Neighborhood Association
Phase #2 – Removing Exotic, Invasive Plant Species and Planting Native Riparian Species (2015-Present)
Each year, the Team has removed invasive Armenian blackberry, English ivy, reed canarygrass, English hawthorn and various exotic grasses from segments of the riparian vegetative buffer along Lamprey Creek in Dr. MLK, Jr. Park. We sheet-mulched the area using cardboard covered with wood chips. Each November, we planted native riparian trees and shrubs. The first segment planted in November 2015 now has trees 15 feet tall and shrubs up to 10 feet tall. Previously, the lawn on this park site was mowed right up to the quickly eroding creek banks. We planted along both sides of the creek in defined segments. Because of the poor soil conditions, compounded with high human and dog impacts, it takes at least four years for the native plants to establish. There has also been an unusually low survival rate among the plants as a result of human impact. But with regular care, the natural ecological riparian systems are returning, improving the health of the creek, the soils, and the whole ecological community.
Phase #3 – Overuse by Domesticated Off-Leash Dogs (2017-Present)
There are an unusually high number of off-leash dogs using the creek, even though the creek area is a designated on-leash area. In any given day, many dogs play along the creek banks and in the creek bed, causing significant, degrading erosion and damage to the life-supporting creek habitat. In 1917, the Team, in collaboration with the City, began installing temporary fencing in the newly-planted areas along the creek. In 2021, signage was placed in the planting segments, noting the regeneration project and asking for “No Feet and No Paws” near the creek. As a result, direct human and dog impacts have significantly diminished in the mitigation areas.
Phase #4 – Education and Interpretation (2017-Present)
Following a few years of planting, we found we needed to educate the public about the benefits of a healthy, life-supporting creek and we needed to inspire the public to appreciate and protect the creek life-supporting services. To date, we have relied on four educational methods.
- Inground Displays – We collaborated with Freshwaters Illustrated (FI) and the City on display funding, design and installation. Three displays were installed. One, designed by FI about lampreys, is placed by a creek bridge about 200 yards west of the parking lot on the south side of the paved multi-modal path. Two identical displays referring to the Lamprey Creek Watershed were designed by the Water Action Team. One was placed about 20 yards west of the kiosk on the south side of the paved multi-modal path. The other was placed along the NW Walnut Boulevard multi-modal path at the corner of NW Fair Oaks Drive.
- Tours – The Team has provided public and private tours of different segments of Lamprey Creek. Anyone wishing to schedule a group tour, contact our Water Action Team.
- Video – “Dammed Oak Creek” is a 9-minute video released in 2022. A portion of the video is devoted to the beaver dam complex located in lower Lamprey Creek, just before the waters drain into Oak Creek.
- Personal Interpretation – Whenever we are working on Lamprey Creek at Dr. MLK, Jr. Park, our team is happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more information about Lamprey Creek.
TEAM Accomplishments 2014-2022
- 2014 – Creek naming initiated
- 2015 – Endorsements sought and received for Lamprey Creek naming
- 2015 – Official naming by United States Geological Survey
- 2016 – “Lamprey Creek Awakening” celebration and blessing
- 2016 – First public tour of Lamprey Creek
- 2015-2019 & 2021-2022 – Tree and shrub plantings along Lamprey Creek
- 2015-2022 – Mulching, watering and weeding of planted areas
- 2017–2018 – Designed and installed interpretive displays
- 2018 – Public and school tours
- 2021-2022 – Photo and video documented the new beaver dam complex
- 2022 – Completed post-production of “Dammed Oak Creek”. Promoted and engaged a large viewership of the video.
2022 Work Plan
- Create and plant next riparian segment along Lamprey Creek
- Weed whack the seed heads of the Canary Reedgrass growing in the creek before the seeds germinate. This process is critical to limit the spread of this obnoxious aquatic weed.
- Work with OSU administration to protect the beaver population on its agricultural property along Lamprey Creek.
- Maintain the seven existing planted riparian segments in Dr. MLK, Jr. Park along Lamprey Creek.
- Produce and make available to the public a recorded webinar about Lamprey Creek.