Stream and Wetland Restoration After the Pike Road Fire

One of the homes that was saved from the Pike Road Fire thanks to the tireless effort of local fire crews.

October 30, 2020, Bay City, OR — High on a ridgeline overlooking the Kilchis River Valley, Clair Thomas and a team of volunteers are getting a tour of the private lands damaged in September’s Pike Road Fire. From this perspective about half of the 400-acre burn is visible. One can only imagine the effort it took to save the handful of homes that dot the landscape. Over 200 professionals and volunteers came to this neighborhood’s rescue, working night and day from the late September 7th until the rains arrived a week later. Thomas and his fellow Watershed Council members have come to the aid of private landowners to help repair the damage done in and around salmon-bearing streams and spring-heads that make up the headwaters of Vaughn Creek, a tidal tributary of the Kilchis River. The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) has worked with local landowners to improve fish habitat in Vaughn Creek since the non-profit’s founding in 1998.

“In the past our work has been mainly down in the flood plain, where there were a number of barriers to fish migration,” says Thomas, referring to undersized and/or failing culverts that blocked salmon and trout from migrating in and out of the watershed. “Getting to work in the headwaters of Vaughn Creek is pretty cool–we’re getting to see a lot of interesting habitats that are often overlooked.”

Looking down one of the fire lines where exposed soils are already eroding rapidly, delivering fine sediment into Vaughn Creek.

The Pike Road Fire was one of dozens of fires sparked across Tillamook County by downed powerlines during the intense east winds of the Labor Day 2020 storm. Within minutes the fire spread in multiple directions, and by 1:00 AM on September 8th, local neighborhoods were being evacuated. Fire crews and local heavy-equipment operators immediately went to work cutting fire-lines and defending homes that stood amidst the blaze. The tireless efforts of fire and emergency personnel–along with dozens of loggers, farmers and local contractors who instinctively rushed to their neighbors’ aid–was nothing short of heroic. Every home was saved, and the residents of Idaville and Bay City were reminded how strong their community could be under pressure.

“We’re going to drop down along this trail to the creek and spread seed on the disturbed areas,” Thomas says to his crew, pointing down a steep grade into a dense stand of scorched alders and hemlocks. “Our goal here is to prevent erosion of the soils and excess sedimentation in Vaughn Creek.”

The crew makes its way into the deep canyon, hand-spreading grass seed donated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). They leave the trail and follow tracks of deer and elk to the stream bottom. Here the blackened trunks of living trees stand among hundreds of scorched and wind-fallen ones, making the going difficult. Grasses and ferns are already sprouted and flourishing where their pre-fire foliage was burned to stubble.

One of the burned out gullies above Vaughn Creek, already showing signs of life after a few days of rain.

“It’s pretty incredible seeing these ferns popping up here, just weeks after the fire,” says TBWC volunteer and local historian Charles Wooldridge. He crouches low to snap a photo of the vibrant green bracken and sword ferns popping up all around him. “It looks like a lot of the larger trees might make it, too.”

Later in the day, and a bit further downstream, the crew comes to a wetland and spring head that is quickly becoming inundated with fine sediment. As rain falls gently from a passing shower, Thomas explains how seeding the exposed soils surrounding this site will help prevent mud from washing down across the yard and driveway below, while also protecting water quality in Vaughn Creek.

“This is a place where we can not only seed the area, but also come back and plant native vegetation to enhance the wetland,” Thomas explains. “Thankfully we have access to an amazing source of locally produced trees, shrub and forbs at the NORP nursery.”

He is referring to the Northwest Oregon Restoration Partnership (NORP), a local non-profit nursery program that collects and cultivates seed from native plants in the area. The NORP nursery at Camp Tillamook is the primary source of native plants used in habitat restoration projects throughout the Tillamook Bay watershed. The nursery produces over 50,000 plants each year for local projects, and thanks to grants and labor from its many partner-organizations, NORP can offer those plants to watershed councils at a reduced price. In fact, the TBWC can get plants for as little as $1 apiece, as long as the Councils members volunteer at least 18 hours to NORP every year.

“This is a small project for our watershed council,” Thomas says, “But it’s a chance to show our support for local landowners, who also happen to be our neighbors and friends. We are a tightknit community.”

Clair Thomas (left) and Charles Wooldridge (right) raking in grass seed along a forest road above Murphy Creek, another Kilchis River tributary where the TBWC crew is working to minimize erosion.

The TBWC is actively seeking members who share its mission to preserve and enhance the Tillamook Bay watershed. Members are asked to attend one meeting a month, usually held on the late Tuesday of the month from 6:00PM to 8:00PM. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the TBWC is suspending in-person meetings and its Science by the Bay speaker series, but it hopes to resume meetings with social distancing in January 2021. For more information on becoming a volunteer or Council member, email the TBWC at: or call 503-523-8387.

Sword ferns rise from the ashes of the Pike Road fire, a hopeful sign of nature’s regenerative power.

Take a Virtual Underwater Tour of Oregon’s Marine Reserves October 30th

Cape FalconCristen Don photo

The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council’s 2018 Speaker Series resumes on Tuesday, October 30th with a very special presentation exploring the underwater world of Oregon’s Marine Reserves. Cristen Don, Marine Reserves Program Leader at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), will give a virtual underwater tour of all five of the state’s reserves, with an emphasis on the Cape Falcon reserve in north Tillamook County. In addition to the visual tour, Don’s presentation will include an overview of the ongoing conservation and research efforts conducted by the department and its many partners since the creation of the reserves in 2007. She will also touch on ODFW’s new Site Management Plan for Cape Falcon, to which the department is seeking public input this fall.

Oregon’s five marine reserves include Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua, and Redfish Rocks, each named for local natural landmarks. Within these reserves all removal of marine life is prohibited, as is ocean development. ODFW is charged with overseeing the stewardship, management and scientific monitoring of these areas. Over the past 15 years, Cristen Don has worked on a variety of ocean policy and management topics including alternative ocean energy, nearshore fisheries, and marine reserves and protected areas. She has worked on ODFW’s Marine Reserves Program since 2007.

The October 30th presentation will be held in the Hatfield Room at the Tillamook County Library in downtown Tillamook, and is made possible by a partnership with the Friends of Cape Falcon Marine Reserve. The Council’s regular monthly business meeting will follow the presentation, with updates on Council activities and local habitat restoration projects. Doors will open at 5:30PM and the presentation will start at 6:00PM. Light refreshments will be served. As with all TBWC events, this event is free and open to the public.

The TBWC holds regular public meetings of our all-volunteer board on the last Tuesday of each month at the library, and we are always seeking new members from the community. The Council’s work includes on-the-ground habitat restoration projects, educational outreach programs, and other community-engagement activities like our popular Speaker Series. For more information, visit our website at: https// or call 503-322-0002.

What: Oregon’s Marine Reserve Virtual Tour & TBWC Monthly Meeting

Where: Tillamook County Library, 1716 Third Street in downtown Tillamook

When: Tuesday, October 30th from 6:00PM to 8:30PM

Why: Because we love the Tillamook Bay Watershed!

Rebuilding Tillamook’s Riparian Areas: A Conservation Partnership


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TCSWCD and TEP have been planting trees along Tillamook County’s waterways for 20 years, and the effects are starting to show. TBWC photo.

If you’ve been paying close attention to Tillamook’s river banks lately, you’ve probably noticed a lot of young trees peeking their heads above the brush line. Sitka spruce, Western Redcedar, red alder, black cottonwood and big leaf maple are all making a big comeback throughout the watershed. And if you’re familiar with the history of Tillamook’s forests, it won’t surprise you to hear that most of those trees have been planted by hand in an effort to restore riparian areas–the margins of land that border waterways. That comeback is thanks to the work of a group of dedicated local conservationists who have been working with private landowners to fence off riparian areas, remove invasive weeds, and replant with native trees and shrubs. That inspirational team is led by two very important gentlemen: Ray Monroe of the Tillamook County Soil and Water Conservation District (TCSWCD) and Tom McDermott of the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP).

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Tom McDermott uses an auger to drill into frozen soil along the upper Trask. Tom has planted over 250,000 trees in the County, and he just keeps going! TBWC photo.


They and their crews have fenced hundreds of miles of riparian buffers and planted roughly 1.3 million trees and shrubs over the last 20 years. Today, as those earliest plantings are coming of age, the rest of us can see the progress being made.


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This healthy stand of trees is coming of age, providing a wind break for the landowner, shade for the river, and a future source of wood for the fish. TBWC photo.


Join the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) tonight in the Hatfield Room of the Tillamook Library as TCSWCD Director Ray Monroe shares this remarkable story. Doors will open at 5:30PM and Ray’s talk will run from 6:00PM to 7:00PM. The TBWC’s regular business meeting will follow the presentation, with updates on habitat restoration projects and Council events. We hope to see you there!


Science by the Bay: The Art and Science of Dairy Farming in Oregon


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Tillamook has some of the happiest cows on earth, like these young “heifers” along the Trask River. TBWC photo.


Living, working, or playing in Tillamook County we have a front row seat to a lot of world-class dairy farming. But how much do we really know about the farming happening all around us? Chances are there are a few things you have always wanted to know, and our upcoming Science by the Bay” event offers a chance to get informed and make a few friends in the industry. Friday, June 15th, the Oregon Dairy Farmers’ Association (ODFA), Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), and the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) are presenting an overview of the Oregon dairy industry and dairy farming practices, including animal care, nutrient management and environmental regulations. Speakers will include Chad Allen, President of the ODFA and a Tillamook dairy producer; Wym Matthews, CAFO* Program Manager, Oregon Department of Agriculture; and Tami Kerr, Executive Director of the ODFA.

“The Oregon dairy industry is extremely diverse,” said Tami Kerr. “Some farms are very small, some are large, some are organic (about 20%), and others are conventional—but all are family businesses. Oregon’s producers work hard, 365 days a year to provide a high quality, nutritious milk supply.”

“The TBWC is excited to provide this rare opportunity,” said Dave Wells, Chair of the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council. “Dairy farming is a big deal in Tillamook County, and we know there are still some misconceptions out there about farm practices. This gives the public a chance to get informed and talk directly with local farmers and experts.”

The Science by the Bay event is free and open to the public. Doors will open at 6:00PM, with the presentation scheduled to run from 6:30PM to 8:00PM. Light refreshments will be served.

Science by the Bay is a quarterly speaker series offered by the TBWC, dedicated to promoting science and stewardship in the Tillamook Bay Watershed.

What: Science by the Bay: Dairy Farming in Oregon

When: Friday, June 15th from 6:30PM to 8:00PM

Where: Bay City Arts Center, 5680 A Street, Bay City

Why: Because we love the Tillamook Bay watershed!


*Confined animal feeding operation


Bay City Arts Center



Tillamook High School’s Science Research Students Will Present Award Winning Projects May 29th


2018 winners
Tillamook High School students and staff at the recent Northwest Science Expo. Back row, left to right: Austin Weeks, Silas Waxter, Dillon Pierce, Malachi Thorn, Kara Putnam, Anna Mattson, and Celeste Stout. Front row, left to right: Jane Yeoman and Clair Thomas.

Science Research students from Tillamook High School (THS) have brought home a number of prestigious awards, prizes and scholarships from this spring’s state and regional science competitions. One of those students, Anna Matson, was chosen to represent Oregon at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh, PA. As in past years, the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) has invited the students to make a public presentation of their winning science projects as part of its Speaker Series. This year’s event will be held the evening of Tuesday, May 29th at the Tillamook County Library from 6:30PM to 8:00PM.

THS Science Research Students have so far competed in three Intel-sponsored events, starting with the Central Western Oregon Regional Science Fair (CWOSE) held in March at the University of Oregon, followed by the Northwest Science Exposition (NWSE) held in April at Portland State University, and the ISEF in May. The results of the ISEF aren’t yet in, but the Tillamook team brought home a number of awards from NWSE including:

Anna Mattson – 2nd in State in Biochemistry, awarded for Outstanding Aquatic Related Project and chosen to compete at ISEF (Project: The Effect of Changing Ocean Conditions on the Spawning Success of Native Olympic Oysters)

Kara Putnam – 3rd in State in Botany and a $36000 scholarship to University of Oregon (Project: English Ivy Essential Oils as Germination Inhibitors of Grasses)

Silas Waxter – 1st in state in Microbiology, awarded the AbSci Future Innovators Award and a $36,000 scholarship to University of Oregon (Project: Use of Turkey Tail and Blue Oyster Mushrooms to Reduce Aquatic Pollution from Manure Spreading)

Austin Weeks – Stockholm Junior Water Prize (Project: Use of Biochar in reducing Sulfides from Municipal Water Sources)

Dillon Pierce – Outstanding Research Project in Aquatic Sciences (Project: The Response of Invasive Green Crabs in Netarts Bay to Ocean Acidification)

All of the NWSE winners will present their projects at the May 29th watershed council event, including Celeste Stout, with her project Characterizing the Tillamook Wetlands as they Change from a Freshwater Wetland to a Saltwater Wetland and Malachi Thorne, with his project Creation of a Vacuum Chamber to Work with Alkali Metal Batteries, Specifically the Potassium Battery. The Council will hold its monthly business meeting after the presentation, and the public is welcome.

THS Science Research students have developed a national reputation for their work in natural-resource science, and have won awards, trips, and scholarships valuing over $845,000 over the past 12 years.

The Intel Northwest Science Expo is the state-level science research competition for Oregon.  It is affiliated with the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and the Broadcom MASTERS. The Intel NWSE has been held for 5th through 12th grade students since 1984.


Tillamook Celebrates World Fish Migration Day on April 21st

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Oregon coastal coho making it home for the big spawning run. Conrad Gowell, photo.

Tillamook, OR — The communities surrounding Tillamook Bay are planning a celebration of World Fish Migration Day on Saturday, April 21st from 3:00PM to 6:00PM, and they have a lot to celebrate. Around the world, migratory fish make up a crucial link in the food chain and play an important role in healthy and productive river systems. They also provide vital food sources and livelihoods for millions of people. And while many migratory fish species are in decline worldwide, Tillamook’s salmon species have been the focus of over 20 years of watershed and habitat restoration. With the completion of recent large-scale projects like the Southern Flow Corridor, local fisheries biologists are predicting a resurgence of coho and Chinook salmon populations in the years ahead.

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Young coho hanging in the shallows on a summer day. Conrad Gowell photo.

Tillamook’s migration festivities begin at the downtown library with a series of fascinating science talks and underwater videos presented in the Copeland Room. Local biologists and naturalists will give an in-depth look at the amazing fish migrations that pass through the Tillamook Bay, and about the growing Salmon SuperHwy restoration effort that seeks to reconnect fish to lost habitats. From there the event will “migrate” via carpool to a nearby habitat restoration project where local conservation partners are working with private landowners to remove barriers to migrating fish. The event will culminate in a return-migration to Pelican Brewing’s Tasting Room in downtown Tillamook for a social hour, within close walking distance of the library and the Southern Flow Corridor restoration project.


When, Where & What to Bring – Saturday, April 21st from 3:00PM to 6:00PM , starting at the Tillamook Library, 1716 Third Street in downtown Tillamook. If you want to join the restoration tour, bring boots and raingear just in case.

Registration is FREE and required for this event.

To register go to:

This event is part of the Explore Nature series and is partially funded by the Economic Development Council of Tillamook County, Visit Tillamook Coast, and the Travel Oregon Forever Fund.

The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council is a local not-for-profit organization building voluntary partnerships with communities and landowners to protect, maintain and improve the health of our waters, fish and wildlife. Learn more about our on-the-ground restoration projects, educational outreach programs, and other community-engagement activities at

Trout Unlimited is a national not-for-profit dedicated to conserving cold water fisheries. Check out to get involved.

The Salmon SuperHwy Project is an unprecedented effort to restore access for fish to almost 180 miles of blocked habitat throughout the Tillamook, Nestucca and Sand Lake watersheds. The partnership includes federal, state, and local agencies as well as non-governmental conservation groups. Learn more at

2018 World Fish Migration Day Poster

Check out this awesome video promoting World Fish Migration Day by Jeremy Wade of River Monster fame:

TB Cleanup Shirt Design 2018It’s that time again! The TBWC will host its biennial Tillamook Bay Clean-up on St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17th.  The community is invited to volunteer for this important event, joining private landowners, local businesses, SOLVE, the Tillamook Bay Watershed Council, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership and Tillamook County Solid Waste Department, all in an effort to make Tillamook Bay a more beautiful place. Volunteers will gather at the Bay City Arts Center at 9:00AM for a kick-off meeting with complimentary coffee and pastries. Eight teams will be formed, each with a local team-leader who will assist volunteers, ensure safe handling of hazardous waste, and steer teams away from private property, as necessary. Garbage will be staged at a number of sites around the bay for pick-up, either by truck or by boat, depending on road access. Cleanup teams will return to the Arts Center between 1:00PM and 2:00PM, and the event will culminate in an after-party from 2:00PM to 5:00PM. Locally-made food and drink will be provided by sponsors as volunteers share their stories and photos from the day. The Tillamook Bay Cleanup is a family-friendly event, with a number of cleanup routes that will be appropriate for kids who are accompanied by an adult. The Bay City Arts Center is located in the center of Bay City at 5680 A Street, Bay City, 97107.

            Volunteers can expect large amounts of floating debris including plastic bottles, flip-flops, shotgun shells and styrofoam. Volunteers are encouraged to register on the SOLVE website, or call SOLVE at (503) 844-9751 ext. 321 or 321, or 1-800-333-SOLV(7658).

            The growing list of local sponsors for the 2018 Tillamook Bay Cleanup include City Sanitary Service, R-Sanitary, Tillamook County Solid Waste, Tillamook County Parks, the Bay City Arts Center, Pacific Seafood, Pelican Brewing, KTIL, the Headlight Herald, the Hook Line & Sinker, Barview Jetty Store, and the Tillamook County Creamery Association.

            The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council and the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership are not-for-profit organizations building collaborative, voluntary partnerships with communities and landowners, to protect, maintain and improve the health of the watershed through on-the-ground restoration projects, educational outreach programs, and other community-engagement activities. SOLVE is a statewide nonprofit organization that brings Oregonians together to improve the environment and build a legacy of stewardship.

            To become a team leader or sponsor, or for more information, please contact Rob Russell, TBWC Coordinator, at 503-322-0002, or via email at

Bay Cleanup Map Updated

Missing Oxygen and Acidifying Waters – The Science of a Changing Ocean Along the Oregon Coast


Ocean acidification and hypoxia are emerging as two of the most pressing issues facing Oregon’s coastal fishing communities. Researchers are looking for answers, like the possibility of growing kelp and other sea plants to take up carbon dioxide and buffer against the growing pressures of ocean acidification. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.


Over the past decade, Oregon’s productive coastal oceans have emerged as ground zero in the search for answers and solutions to ocean acidification and hypoxia. Ocean acidification refers to the changes in pH and related aspects of seawater chemistry that result from the ocean’s uptake of society’s CO2 emissions. Hypoxia refers to the appearance of low-oxygen zones that redistribute and/or suffocate marine life.

Join us Tuesday, November 28th when OSU researcher Dr. Francis Chan shares findings from the frontlines of ocean acidification and hypoxia research in Oregon, and offers his outlook on the steps we can take to prepare ourselves for the changes to come. The TBWC’s monthly business meeting will follow the presentation, including updates on local habitat restoration projects. This event is FREE and open to the public!


Dr. Francis Chan is an Associate Professor Senior Research in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University.  He received his PhD in ecology from Cornell University, and since then his research has focused on understanding the ecosystem dynamics of coastal oceans. He has worked extensively on understanding the causes and consequences of low-oxygen (hypoxia) zones along the U. S. West Coast. Dr. Chan is also working actively to understand the progression of ocean acidification in coastal waters and their implications for productive coastal oceans. He is a co-principle investigator in the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) where he works to build long-term understanding of ocean ecosystem changes through nearshore ocean acidification and hypoxia monitoring efforts. Dr. Chan recently served as the co-chair of the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel and is active in state (Oregon Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Monitoring Group Network) and regional (Pacific Coast Collaboration –Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification Joint Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Integrated Monitoring Task Force) planning for ocean change monitoring. Dr. Chan lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Brian Atwater and the Orphan Tsunami of 1700

Katsushika Hokusai’s Iconic 1830’s Painting, “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”

The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council (TBWC) and Pelican Brewing Company are pleased to announce the return of world-renowned geologist Brian Atwater to Tillamook County for a special event next Monday evening at the Bay City Arts Center. Atwater is best known for discovering geologic evidence of past subduction-zone earthquakes, and for connecting that evidence to historical records of trans-Pacific tsunamis in Japan. He co-authored a professional paper in 2005 that told the story of the “Orphan Tsunami of 1700,” connecting his scientific work in North America with accounts written by Samurai, merchants and villagers in 18th-century Japan. It’s a gripping detective story, and one that has major relevance to the people of Tillamook County. Atwater’s work has contributed significantly to our understanding of subduction-zone quakes and the resulting tsunamis, and has influenced policy and emergency preparedness strategies.


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Geologist Brian Atwater in the tidal wetlands where evidence of earthquakes and resulting tsunamis has been uncovered. Courtesy of Brian Atwater, USGS.


            Join the TBWC next Monday, June 12th, from 6:30PM to 8:00PM at the Bay City Arts Center to hear the whole story and to understand how these important discoveries affect all of us who live on the Oregon Coast. Pelican Brewing will provide beer, and the TBWC will serve light refreshments. Admission is free and open to the public, but donations will be gladly accepted.

            The Tillamook Bay Watershed Council is a local not-for-profit organization building collaborative, voluntary partnerships with communities and landowners. Its mission is to protect, maintain and improve the health of our watershed through on-the-ground restoration projects, educational outreach programs, and other community-engagement activities. This event represents a new partnership with Pelican Brewing to offer a series of public events that promote awareness of watershed issues.


This picture map from 1687, with a symmetrical Mount Fuji, shows a pine-covered spit where a tsunami was noted in January 1700, but with no apparent earthquake. Courtesy of the East Asia Collection, University of California, Berkeley.