Prior to the eruption of Mount St Helens in 1980, the South Fork Toutle River supported significant runs of Chinook, coho, steelhead, and sea run cutthroat trout. In a strategic effort to recover these important fish populations, Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group has several current and future projects in the South Fork Toutle River watershed.
One that we recently completed is a large riparian planting project at the confluence of the North and South Fork Toutle Rivers. Our long-term goal in the lower South Fork Toutle is to reestablish healthy and mature floodplain vegetation that will improve habitat for salmonids (i.e., flows that are concentrated into single channels with oxbows and diverse off-channel habitats).
We have also nearly completed restoration work in Bear, Harrington, and Little Cow Creeks, tributaries of the South Fork Toutle River. Our approach on these projects was to enhance critical off-channel habitat and place numerous large wood structures to improve instream habitat complexity and create floodplain roughness features for protection of riparian forest.
In the winter of 2020-21 we will enhance riparian areas with plantings of late succession and beaver-friendly species. These projects jumpstarted restoration activities in the headwaters of the South Fork Toutle River and will be supplemented by a major design project initiated in 2019 that will develop a restoration plan for the remaining 500 acres and 14.5 miles of stream in the headwater valley.
South Fork Toutle River is funded by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, supported by numerous smaller grants from Clark Skamania Flyfishers, USFS Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Weyerhaeuser, and Bass Pro Shops.