The Yaquina River (yuh-KWEN-uh) is a river, approximately 59 miles long and drains an area of the Coast Range west of the Willamette Valley near Newport. The Siletz Watershed is to the north and the Alsea is to the south. The Yaquina River basin covers an area of approximately 253 square miles.
The river rises in the mountains west of Corvallis, in the Siuslaw National Forest along the county line between Benton and Lincoln counties. It flows south, then generally west, in a highly serpentine course, past Toledo. It enters the Pacific in Yaquina Bay, a broad estuary at Newport.
As early as 1856, Yaquina Bay was visited by the sailing vessel Calumet, laden with supplies for Lieutenant Phil Sheridan and the nearby military garrison. When the Yaquina Bay oyster beds were discovered in 1862, great profits were made by exporting the delicacy to San Francisco and elsewhere. Yaquina Bay was opened to white settlement in 1864. Resorts soon followed, paving the way for Newports incorporation in 1882 and establishing the community as a premier tourist destination along the Oregon Coast. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is located on the coast near the mouth of the river.
Newport, at the river mouth, and Toledo, upriver 10 miles, are the only two incorporated cities within the basin. The 2000 U.S. Census reported Newports population at approximately 9,500.
Land use in the Yaquina Watershed consists of 87% forest land, 4% crop land, 2% range land, and 7% in miscellaneous other uses. Approximately 72% of the basin is in private ownership. Much of the upper basin is owned by large timber companies. Logging is a major activity in the basin and wood products processing plants are located in Toledo and Eddyville. Animal grazing and crop production occur in many of the flat, valley areas. The most extensive agricultural lands are near Boone Slough. The economy of the lower basin is based on fishing, seafood processing, forest products export, and tourism.
The estuary is ranked the fourth largest within Oregon (excluding the Columbia). The bay is maintained as a deep-water port by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Estuarine marshes cover 819 acres surrounding the Yaquina estuary.
Salmon species found in the Yaquina Watershed include coho, chum, and fall chinook salmon, winter steelhead, and sea-run cutthroat trout.
During the 1990s the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) conducted surveys of returning native coho for coastal streams. ODFW random fish surveys for the Yaquina during the years 1990 to 1999 counted, on average, 1,853 spawning coho each year. In 1998, the watershed saw its lowest coho return for the decade, counting only 365 wild fish. Historically, 34,000 - 46,000 salmon were estimated to spawn in the Yaquina Watershed.
To learn more about the Siletz-Yaquina 4th field watershed, visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Surf Your Watershed website.
Coast Range Association. Salmon and Forests: A Report on the Siletz Watershed. Corvallis, Oregon. 2000. HTML document.