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Steamboat Creek Watershed

Key Statistics

Size (acres) 104,521
Percent public ownership 99
Miles of anadromous salmonid streams 52
Highest elevation (feet) 5,990
Lowest elevation (feet) 1,200

Location and Size

The Steamboat Creek fifth-field watershed is located in the northeastern portion of the Umpqua Basin. The watershed is 104,521 acres and includes all of Steamboat Creek above Canton Creek, located near the mouth. Steamboat Creek stretches a maximum of 18 miles north to south and 14 miles east to west.


E&S Environmental Chemistry
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Landscape and Features

The Steamboat Creek Watershed is located on the south-facing slopes of the Calapooya Divide between the Willamette and Umpqua basins. Elevations range from 1,200 feet at Steamboat Creek's confluence with Canton Creek to 5,990 feet at Bohemia Mountain on the north end of the watershed. Watershed topography is highly variable, with landforms characterized as a sea of rolling hills and mountains in a moderate erosional state. Streams in this area have relatively gentle gradients and appear to be well incised into their respective gorges.

There are no residents living in the watershed. The nearest population centers are Roseburg (approximately 40 road miles to the west) and Oakridge (approximately 40 road miles to the north). The only non-federal public road in the watershed is Steamboat Road (Douglas County Road #249). Other roads within the watershed are managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

The most common land use in the watershed is forestry. There is a small amount of mining in the upper watershed, located primarily in the headwaters of City and Horse Heaven creeks. The U.S. Forest Service administers almost all of the land in the watershed. The 1% of the watershed in private ownership is used primarily for mining purposes.

Nearly all the Steamboat Creek Watershed is designated as a late successional reserve and a key watershed by the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan. Late successional reserves are to be managed to protect and enhance conditions of late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystems. Key watersheds are areas that either provide, or are expected to provide, high quality aquatic habitat.

Current Conditions

The Steamboat Creek Watershed provides habitat for summer and winter steelhead, migratory and resident cutthroat trout, spring chinook salmon, and coho salmon, though chinook and coho salmon are present in very low numbers. Other native fish in the watershed include rainbow trout, redside shiner, and sculpin and dace species. Non-native brook trout have been stocked in several impoundments within the watershed. However, snorkel surveys in 1997 did not find them in Steamboat Creek. Pacific lamprey are present within the watershed. Brook lamprey are thought to inhabit the watershed, too, but their presence has not been documented. Steamboat Creek and its tributaries have been closed to fishing since 1932.

As with many watersheds in southwestern Oregon, stream temperature limits water quality in much of the Steamboat Creek Watershed. Steamboat Creek and four of its tributaries are on the 2002 final ODEQ 303(d) list for stream temperature. Steamboat Creek and two of the same four tributaries are 303(d) listed for sedimentation. Steamboat Creek is also 303(d) listed for low dissolved oxygen and pH.

Harvest within riparian areas, large woody debris removal, and removal of wood from streams during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s have left the watershed in short supply of large woody debris. The resulting increased water velocities have washed sediment and gravel from Steamboat Creek and the lower reaches of some of the tributaries. High quality over-wintering habitat in these areas is in short supply.

Mining in the watershed dates back to the late 1850s when gold was first discovered. The Bohemia Mining District was formed in 1867. Access trails were established between the Upper Steamboat watershed and the communities of Oakland and Drain during these early years. The majority of this early mining activity consisted of hard-rock mining in the vicinity of Fairview Peak and Bearbones Mountain. In addition to the hard-rock mining, there were numerous placer mines along the main stem of Steamboat Creek in the early 1900s. In 1959, the Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recognized the importance of the Steamboat Creek watershed to anadromous fish. This recognition led to mining and fishing restrictions along Steamboat Creek proper. In 1976, this mineral withdrawal was extended to include portions of fifteen tributaries to Steamboat Creek. 


ODEQ 303(d) list: Accessed on-line on January 13, 2006.

USFS Watershed Analyses: Upper Steamboat Creek Watershed Analysis, North Umpqua Ranger District, Umpqua National Forest, 1997, and Lower Steamboat Creek Watershed Analysis, North Umpqua Ranger District, Umpqua National Forest, September 1999.