Salmon River Estuary

Restoration Projects » Salmon River Estuary
A view from Cascade Head of the Salmon River estuary

The Salmon River Estuary lies within the historic Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area, the first Scenic-Research Area designated in the United States. Congress created the Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area in 1974 to maintain and enhance the scenic and ecological qualities of the areas.

In 1975 the area of the Cascade Head Experimental Forest and Scenic-Research Area was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a Biosphere Reserve. Such areas are regarded as essential for studies of ecosystems of various kinds, since they represent baselines or standards against which change can be measured and the performance of other ecosystems judged.

In 1976 the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Management of the Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area was completed. Among other things, it established a long-term goal of “restoring the Salmon River estuary and its associated wetlands to a natural estuarine system free from man’s developments.”

Estuary restoration work began in 1978 with the partial removal of dikes north of the Salmon River that surrounded 52 acres

aerial view of Salmon River Estuary  showing key landmarks and places where 3 marshes have already been restored

Restoration Projects

An overview map of the Salmon River estuary restoration area

In the summer of 2006 a team of graduate students participated in an internship to develop a comprehensive restoration plan for the Salmon River estuary. Along with identifying watershed-wide projects like eliminating invasive plant species, they also identified six site-specific, high priority projects. These included:

  • The restoration of the old Pixieland site
  • Restoring the Tamara Quays trailer park site
  • Dike removal at Crowley Creek
  • Reconfiguring U.S. Highway 101 to reconnect both Fraser and Salmon Creeks; and
  • Interpretive sites and trail access.

On-the-ground restoration work began during the summer of 2007 at Tamara Quays and Pixieland. Crowley Creek was restored in 2012 and a marina which was carved into the marsh floor was restored in 2014.

The People Involved

Partnerships: A partnership was developed between the Siuslaw National Forest, Cascade Pacific RC&D, Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and the Salmon Drift Creek Watershed Council to facilitate the project. Later, during the summer, Neskowin Valley School offered support through the use of a classroom for office space.

Student Team: A tea of five graduate students was selected for an intensive eight week project over the summer of 2006 to develop a restoration plan for the Salmon River Estuary. These students were from universities across the Pacific Northwest and had well- rounded backgrounds in the fields of botany, fisheries, landscape architecture, marine affairs, and urban and regional planning.

Advisory board: A call out to the community, agencies, and other relevant experts was made, inviting people to attend the open public meetings and to advise the student team. The student team looked at the lower Salmon River watersheds to understand how the uplands affect the estuary as well as the general condition of the estuary.


Restoring the Salmon River Estuary: Journey and Lessons Learned Along the Way: This report was created for natural resource professionals involved in the art and science of ecological restoration, as well as members of the general public interested in the restoration efforts in the Salmon River estuary. While ecological restoration has been in progress since the late 1970s, the focus of this document is the more recent efforts which began in 2006.

Lower Salmon River Project: This document provides a historical landscape perspective and characterizes current political, cultural, and ecological conditions in the study area. By looking to the past, this project respects the diverse cultural heritage of indigenous and pioneer occupants of the land, as well as current landowners and stakeholders. Based on an integrated process of research, field studies, and public input, recommendations are presented to assist stakeholders in identifying key actions to enhance ecological function across the landscape.

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