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Salmon and Other Fish

Metolius River

The Metolius River originates from a spring near Black Butte, Oregon and flows north and east to Lake Billy Chinook. As a river that has been relatively unaltered by humans, the Metolius maintains natural water levels and temperature, and is able to support a healthy population of salmon and trout. Because of its undisturbed, natural state, the Metolius was designates a National Wild and Scenic River in 1988.

Metolius River near Lower Bridge

Metolius River near Lower Bridge
(Oregon State Archives)

The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council is among the many agencies and organizations who manage the Metolius River. This organization's restoration priorities for the river include providing fish passage or screening at dams and other water diversions, protecting and restoring stream corridors, wetlands, in-stream habitat, and riparian and floodplain areas, and reducing the summer waer temperature of Lake Creek.

Another managing organization is the Deschutes Land Trust, which is responsible for the 1,240-acre Metolius Preserve that the Trust acquired in 2003. The preserve contains a three-mile stretch of Lake Creek, and supports mature ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and western larch forests. Wildlife includes mule and black-tailed deer, black bear, cougar, bobcat, badger, beaver, otter, and numerous bird species. The preserve also provides critical winter range for Roosevelt elk. In 2008, a large culvert on Lake Creek was removed to improve fish habitat. The creek, which already supports a population of redband trout, is anticipated to support a population of sockeye and Chinook salmon in the future.

The lower 17 miles of the river border the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation have been instrumental in managing the Upper and Middle stems of the Deschutes River as well as the Metolius River. Tribal members met with conservation organizations and Portand General Electric (PGE) in the 1990s to address the environmental issues stemming from the Pelton-Round Butte Dam that created Lake Billy Chinook. The tribe now manages the dam in a partnership with PGE. For more information on the Pelton-Round Butte Dams new fish passage facility, visit An Upstream Battle: Restoring Whychus Creek.


Deschutes River Conservancy. Background information.

Deschutes River Land Trust. Information about the Metolius Preserve.

Authored by Caitlin Bell, Staff, Oregon Explorer