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Tualatin Watershed

Every river has its hero. The Tualatin has the crawfish. In 1951 the people of Tualatin decided to celebrate the abundance of crawfish in the Tualatin River with a festival and the first annual Tualatin Crawfish Festival was born. The festival became so popular that the Voodoo Queen of Acadiana placed a curse upon the Tualatin Crawfish Festival, threatening them with bad "gris-gris" for attempting to steal South Louisiana's title to crawfish superiority.

The valley of the Tualatin was important for more than crawfish. It was one of the first settled farming regions in Oregon. The building of a plank road to the Tualatin Valley from Portland in 1890 is considered be one of the principal reasons for the rise of Portland as the dominant city in the region. The valley contains numerous natural wetlands, some of which have been designated the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Tualatin River watershed drains 712 square miles and flows languidly through a mosaic of agricultural and urban land for 78 miles from its headwaters to the Willamette River. Winding its way through dozens of bends and twists, the river earned its name, which means "lazy river", from the Atfalati people who lived in the Tualatin Basin before European settlement.

The watershed ranges from the densely populated areas of southwest Portland, Hillsboro, Tigard, and Beaverton to agricultural areas near Scholls, Gaston, Banks, Mountaindale, and North Plains to the forests of Oregon's Tualatin, Chehalem, and Coast Range Mountains. There are six major tributaries (Scoggins Creek, Gales Creek, Dairy Creek, Rock Creek, and Fanno Creek) and two minor tributaries (McFee and Chicken). Within the watershed, Winter Steelhead are listed as a threatened species.

Two reservoirs influence the watershed: Scoggins Reservoir and Barney Reservoir. Barney Reservoir is on the Trask River but releases water to the Tualatin River during the summer months. Efforts are also underway to restore Wapato Lake which was created from yearly flood waters of the Tualatin River but, since the 1930s, most of the area has been ditched, diked, and drained with tiles to convert and maintain land use as agricultural. Wapato Lake was also a primary gathering place for the native Tualatin culture.

Most of the fast-growing urban population -- approximately 500,000 residents -- resides on 15% of the watershed's area. Agricultural uses cover 35% of the area. Fifty percent of the watershed is forested.

Agriculture; horticulture; forest products; food processing; high-tech, including software and electronics; sports equipment; apparel; and, of course, crawfish drive the basin's economy.


Tualatin River Watershed Council

Tualatin Riverkeepers is a community-based organization that empowers people to protect, restore and enjoy Oregon's Tualatin River system.

A comprehensive geographic information system database for the Tualatin River watershed has been developed by Ecotrust.

Track river conditions and access points, especially for paddling, reports river and bank conditions.

USGS Tualatin site

Compiled by John Ame, Science Writer (2007)