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West Fork Cow Creek Watershed

Key Statistics

Size (acres) 55,914
Percent Public Ownership 53
Miles of anadromous salmonid streams 57
Highest elevation (feet) 4,641
Lowest elevation (feet) 994

Location and Size

The 55,914-acre West Fork Cow Creek fifth-field watershed is located in the southwestern-most corner of the Umpqua Basin. The watershed is a maximum of 10 miles from north to south and 14 miles from east to west. The watershed's mainstem stream, West Fork Cow Creek, is 22 miles long and is Cow Creek's largest tributary.


E&S Environmental Chemistry
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Landscape and Features

The West Fork Cow Creek Watershed has fairly steep topography with streams dissecting the landscape. Elevations range from 4,641 feet at Mount Bolivar on the southeastern edge of the watershed to 994 feet at the mouth of West Fork Cow Creek. Prominent topographic features include Gold Mountain, Big Dutchman Butte, and Hayes Ridge. There are no notable floodplain areas or other low relief features within the watershed, and nearly 80% of the land base is above 2,000 feet.

There are no highways and no cities or population centers within the watershed. Water rights records indicate at one time this area had residential homes. However the current population of the West Fork Cow Creek Watershed is zero.

Forestry is the only land use within the watershed. Land ownership is primarily federal (53%) and administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Most ownership parcels are over 100 acres.


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Current Conditions

Winter steelhead, coho, and cutthroat trout all have resident populations or established runs in the West Fork Cow Creek Watershed. Although fall chinook have been documented in West Fork Cow Creek, their presence is intermittent and does not constitute a salmon run. Redside shiners have been observed in the watershed; however, it is unclear whether these native fish have reproducing populations. Streams in this watershed are too cold for non-native fish.

During the summers of 1994, 1995, and 1997, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) surveyed nearly half of potential salmonid streams in the West Fork Cow Creek Watershed for habitat conditions. Most surveyed streams were rated as poor for riparian areas and large woody debris. All of mainstem West Fork Cow Creek had poor levels of large woody debris, although pools were generally good.


Photo courtesy of Partnership
for the Umpqua Rivers

In 2002, West Fork Cow Creek from the mouth to about stream mile 18 was placed on the ODEQ 303(d) list for temperature during the summer. The watershed has only been sampled once for pH, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, bacteria, and turbidity; the samples were taken on August 28, 2002. The pH sample exceeded water quality standards. Dissolved oxygen, nutrient, bacteria, and turbidity samples were within acceptable water quality parameters.

Specific UBWC Enhancement Opportunities for the West Fork Cow Creek Watershed

Compared to other watersheds in the Umpqua Basin, stream conditions in the West Fork Cow Creek Watershed are good. Listed below are specific UBWC enhancement opportunities within the West Fork Cow Creek Watershed.

1. Assist the Umpqua Basin Fish Access Team's evaluation of fish passage barriers and obstacles throughout the watershed.

2. Investigate instream restoration project opportunities for Elk Valley Creek, Grant Creek, Black Creek, Panther Creek, and Slide Creek.

3. Use volunteer watershed monitors to increase fish distribution and water quality monitoring in the watershed. This could be done in collaboration with agencies and other organizations, such as ODEQ and ODFW.

4. Educate policy makers about the obstacles preventing greater landowner participation in voluntary fish habitat and water quality improvement methods.


Geyer, Nancy A. South Umpqua River Watershed Assessment and Action Plan. Roseburg, Oregon: Prepared for the Umpqua Basin Watershed Council; 2003 November.