Sharing Finn Rock Reach

Exploring New Opportunities for Recreation

The Finn Rock Boat Landing hosts hundreds of people a day in the summer months. With your help, we’re looking at adding a hiking trail and wildlife viewing areas, while protecting the river. Photo by Liz Lawrence.

In addition to rare species like turtles and salmon, Finn Rock Reach includes the popular Finn Rock Boat Landing. Throughout our first year of ownership and management of this unique place, resplendent with enormous cottonwoods and maples, spawning Chinook salmon, and habitat restoration opportunities galore, we’ve heard the question many times: Will you keep the Boat Landing?

For us there was no question: the Finn Rock Boat Landing is a key recreational asset that must be preserved. We’ll keep it open, largely thanks to the enthusiastic and immediate offers of volunteer help and financial support from the McKenzie Guides Association, McKenzie Masters, and other river users.

Now, with your encouragement we’re exploring more possibilities for public access at Finn Rock Reach, including hiking trails and wildlife viewing areas.

Walk a New Footpath through an Old Logging Camp

Huckleberry Lane leads past the area that used to be home to the Finn Rock Logging Camp. Photo by Harper Johnson.
Upriver from the boat landing, Huckleberry Lane leads into the forest. This road was once the main street for Finn Rock Logging Camp, the ‘company town’ for Rosboro lumber. Walk down the old road, and imagine it lined with 25 wooden houses, a church, and a baseball field. At the end of the road, a newly installed footpath takes you just over a mile into riparian forest. This out-and-back path offers beautiful views of the McKenzie River and is open this season as a trial run. If you visit, let us know what you think!

New Possibilities

Several challenges remain for broader public access at Finn Rock Reach. Opening the property would require thoughtful planning and maintenance to accommodate visitors while still preserving ecological integrity.

“Public access has to be able to adapt to a living river,” notes MRT associate director for conservation Daniel Dietz. “Any infrastructure has to be compatible with this river dynamism.”

On the other side of the river, the salmon spawning grounds in Elk Creek are incredibly sensitive. Opening up this part of the property to public access would require thoughtful planning. Photo by Tim Giraudier / Beautiful Oregon.
The Friends of Finn Rock group is helping us consider our options. This volunteer corps made up of interested community members has met several times and will tour the property this fall.

“Finn Rock has a significant amount of the Chinook salmon spawning grounds in the McKenzie, which is amazing,” adds Dietz. “The property has been a community resource for many years. We’re excited to now be helping to care for the land and bringing together more people to be stewards of this resource.”

What You Can Do

  • Share your feedback! What do you value about outdoor recreation along the McKenzie River? Completing our Finn Rock Boat Landing Recreation Survey will help us plan for the future of the site. Click here for the survey.
  • Join the Friends of Finn Rock! This volunteer group helps guide management decisions and care for Finn Rock Reach. To learn more and join the mailing list, contact volunteer coordinator Elizabeth Goward: elizabeth [at] mckenzieriver [dot] org or 541-345-2799 x109.

About the author

Harper Johnson is an outreach intern with McKenzie River Trust. Harper is a junior at Williams College in Massachusetts, double majoring in Psychology and Economics. She grew up in Eugene and spent many summers enjoying the McKenzie River and other wild areas throughout Oregon. She most recently did research on the Colorado River Delta as an intern at an organization dedicated to protecting special places in Baja California and is excited for the opportunity to work at a similar organization in her hometown. She is interested in outreach and communications and is excited to have the chance to explore this at a land trust and gain valuable experience throughout the summer.

Surprises in the Ponds

Volunteer coordinator Elizabeth Goward looks for signs of turtle nests at Finn Rock Reach.

Before you can even see them, the turtles know you’re there. As you walk towards the ponds, you hear soft plops and see rings in the water. Western pond and western painted turtles escape quickly into the water from their sunbathing perches. Once they realize you are not a predator, they cautiously stick their heads out of the water and slowly climb back onto the logs and rocks that dot the surface of the ponds at Finn Rock Reach.

During the warm months, these native Oregon species spend their days basking on logs, rocks, and even floating plants. As spring turns into summer, adult female turtles begin to lay their eggs in nests in the ground. They cover them with dirt, and the eggs are warmed by the summer sun. With luck, by the time the salmon return to their spawning grounds in nearby Elk Creek, a few of the new crop of hatchlings will crawl out and slip quietly into the ponds with their parents. The rest will emerge the following spring.

Western Pond and Western Painted Turtles bask at Finn Rock Reach near the McKenzie River.

Home Waters for Rare Turtles

Both of the turtle species found at Finn Rock Reach are rare in the Willamette Valley. Luckily, this area contains some of the most diverse habitat of the upper McKenzie River. In addition to providing a home for western pond and western painted turtles, Finn Rock is home to Chinook salmon and other native fishes including stickleback; elk; beaver; otter; mink; a wide variety of dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies; and more.

Turtles need specific characteristics in their habitat, both in water and on land. Western pond turtles are usually found in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and rivers. Western painted turtles prefer slow moving, shallow water, like streams, canals, sloughs, and ponds. Both nest on land, typically close to the water. The ponds at Finn Rock have a very stable water level, which makes it easy for turtles to find nesting sites that will stay dry during the winter.

To research turtles at the ponds, we look for dug up nests (the scientific term is depredated) like this one.

One of our goals is to make Finn Rock Reach the best possible habitat for all species. The 278-acre property was purchased by McKenzie River Trust in 2015/16 and includes 2 miles of river frontage. The former landowner, Rosboro timber company, built the ponds so that they could gather gravel to construct roads across their network of lands in the McKenzie basin. Nobody suspected that these man-made ponds would attract such sensitive turtle species.

Learning More, Day by Day

To find out how our turtles are using the area, our stewardship interns are making regular visits to the ponds. They’re observing how the turtles are currently using the ponds by watching basking behaviors, taking count of each species, and mapping their nests. The information gathered from this research will help inform our management plan for the property.

The next step is restoration to help improve the habitat. Restoration will likely include re-grading the banks of the ponds and planting them with natural vegetation to improve nesting and rearing areas. It will also likely include making the area less conducive to invasive species, and creating better basking spots.

Balancing Needs for Turtles and Salmon

Stewardship intern Peter Cooper and volunteer coordinator Elizabeth Goward look for signs of turtles in the ponds. Learning more about the turtles will help us plan for restoration at Finn Rock Reach.

Before the ponds were created, this area was a natural floodplain. During the winter and larger flood events, the river would expand on to the floodplain, creating lots of side channels. These slow moving waters are the perfect habitat for young salmon, which aren’t yet strong enough to take on the fast flowing river. Today, though, the high, steep edges of the ponds prevent the river from making these connections and creating side channels.

The challenge we now face is how to restore floodplain habitat for juvenile salmon, while still keeping the ponds and dry nesting habitat for our native turtle species. One possibility is to turn part of the pond area back into floodplain, while keeping a section as ponds for turtle habitat. Fortunately, turtles are smart creatures, and they will be able to utilize the remaining nesting areas.

What You Can Do

It’s important to protect these habitats as our population expands and demands on the McKenzie River grow.

At McKenzie River Trust, we are working hard to do our part to help make Finn Rock an even better habitat for native species. In April, we launched the McKenzie Homewaters Campaign, a $6 million community effort to protect, restore, and care for Finn Rock Reach, and to expand our conservation footprint up and downstream. To date, over 200 people like you have contributed, bringing us to more than 2/3 of our goal.

If you’re interested in seeing the turtles and exploring Finn Rock Reach, please join us on one of our tours and let us know that you want to learn more. We would be happy to sit down or walk the land with you to introduce you to the projects at Finn Rock and elsewhere in the watershed.

Join us for an upcoming tour

A visitor takes notes during a recent tour of Finn Rock Reach. Photo by Holly McRae.

About the author

Harper Johnson is an outreach intern with McKenzie River Trust. Harper is a junior at Williams College in Massachusetts, double majoring in Psychology and Economics. She grew up in Eugene and spent many summers enjoying the McKenzie River and other wild areas throughout Oregon. She most recently did research on the Colorado River Delta as an intern at an organization dedicated to protecting special places in Baja California and is excited for the opportunity to work at a similar organization in her hometown. She is interested in outreach and communications and is excited to have the chance to explore this at a land trust and gain valuable experience throughout the summer.

A Message From Joe Moll


 
Last night, we hosted another sell-out crowd of over 500 people for a particularly special McKenzie Memories event. In addition to looking back over the last century, to remind ourselves of the vision and hard work and sacrifice of the people who came before us, we very much looked forward, with a shared vision about what we want the McKenzie, our Homewaters, to be like 10, 50, and 100 years from now. Last night, in addition to inviting everyone to immerse themselves in the history of lodges, and river trips, and the remarkable water cycle of the McKenzie River itself, we invited our community to commit to helping us reach to goals of the McKenzie Homewaters Campaign.


 
After working quietly for over a year, last night we launched the public phase of the McKenzie Homewaters Campaign. We seek to bring $6 million to bear on the health of the river by the time the campaign ends at midnight, New Years Eve 2017. The campaign centers on three goals:

  • Conserving clean drinking water.
  • Protecting salmon habitat.
  • Preserving river access.

What will we do with the $6 million?

  • We will pay down the $1.5 million loan we took out to acquire the Finn Rock Reach properties.
  • We will put another $2 million aside for new land deals that protect other special lands riverlands in the McKenzie basin as the opportunities arise.
  • We will gather over $1 million to enhance habitats, giving the river more room to roam, making places less suitable for largemouth bass, and more suitable for native McKenzie Redsides rainbow trout and Chinook salmon. This will also give us the ability to make improvements at the Finn Rock Boat Landing, and perhaps in the years ahead construct a trail through the site of the old Finn Rock Logging Camp adjacent to it.
  • And we will put aside more than $1 million to care for these lands long term, to build on the culture of land and water stewardship that thrives throughout the watershed.

Now, I must say, we’ve been quietly working on securing these funds already. In fact there were many people in the room last night who have already given or made commitments to the campaign. Starting with a tremendous $100,000 contribution just one year ago, immediately following last year’s McKenzie Memories event, we have secured gifts, grants, and pledges of (nearly) $4 million.


 
We want to particularly thank the Oregon Community Foundation for the help they have given to this campaign, and the guidance they afford the families who have the means to contribute philanthropically to the betterment of Oregon, including tremendous early gifts to our campaign.

We are also extremely fortunate in this community to have not only the McKenzie River, but also forward thinking water utilities, Eugene Water and Electric Board and Springfield Utility Board especially, to care for and deliver these resources to our homes and businesses. I’ve said before that the McKenzie River Trust would not be where it is today without the steadfast support and encouragement from EWEB staff and Board members over the last two decades. For the Finn Rock Reach project and this campaign, once again EWEB stepped up immediately to help us assess and secure the Rosboro lands with a $250,000 grant. But they are doing much more for this campaign as well.

Last night, EWEB Commissioner John Brown joined me on stage to announce a special challenge opportunity for the campaign. For every $1 you give, EWEB will match that, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 through December 31.

Our deepest gratitude to John and his fellow forward-thinking EWEB commissioners, who decided to offer up this grant and challenge opportunity. They recognize that we can keep our drinking water clean by protecting the lands that cradle this river, or by adding chemicals to clean it up after it gets dirty. Far more efficient to keep it clean to begin with. This campaign is an important way to do just that.

Whether or not you were in the audience last night, by being a member or a friend of the McKenzie River Trust, you are already announcing that you love this river, you love this place and its history, and you want to make sure that your grandchildren and their grandchildren can have it to love and cherish and care for as well.


 
We are hopeful that over the course of this campaign, your love will swell and your commitment will deepen. We hope that you will do what Jeff Ziller advised in the campaign video we premiered last night: get out in the field with us, help with your hands, help with your pocketbook. If you have an itch to donate right now, then do so through this link. But you can also ask for more information. I’d like you to consider reaching out to one of the MRT staff or Board members or campaign leaders; let us know that you want to learn more. Or join us on a field trip to the old Finn Rock Logging Camp next weekend. Then in the coming weeks and months we can sit down with you and your friends and colleagues or walk in the field with you and them to introduce you further to the project at Finn Rock and opportunities elsewhere in the watershed.

Campaign co-chairs Dave Funk and Hugh Prichard with MRT executive director Joe Moll. Photo by Jon C Meyers.
I’d love for you to think deeply about how much these Homewaters mean to you, and how transformational a gift you’d consider making. As our Honorary Campaign chair Barry Lopez said to us on the McKenzie Memories stage last year, when it comes to being a good resident of this place, whether your family has been here for 5 generations or you just moved here last week, isn’t the most important thing that we love this river, our Homewaters? Of course you can show your love for a person or a place or an organization in many ways. We welcome them all, from all.

Thank you for considering a gift to this campaign.

–Joe Moll, executive director of McKenzie River Trust since 2005

Press Release: McKenzie Camp acquisition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 30, 2015

Contact: Joe Moll
Executive Director, McKenzie River Trust
541-844-6284 (cell)
541-345-2799 (office)
jmoll@mckenzieriver.org

McKenzie River Trust Protects Clean Water and Salmon Habitat Near Blue River in Land Acquisition From Rosboro

A side channel of the McKenzie River flows through the McKenzie Camp property, now protected thanks to a land acquisition by the McKenzie River Trust. MRT purchased 154 acres of riverfront land that includes numerous side channels, ponds, wetlands, and old floodplain forest in the scenic McKenzie River corridor from Rosboro on December 30, 2015. Photo by Tim Giraudier.
(EUGENE, OR) The McKenzie River Trust (MRT) has purchased 154 acres of riverfront land along the McKenzie River near the town of Blue River. The property, called McKenzie Camp, includes approximately two miles of riverfront, numerous side channels, ponds, wetlands, and old floodplain forest in the scenic McKenzie River corridor. MRT, a nonprofit land trust that has protected over 4,000 acres of healthy natural lands in the region, will steward the land for its clean water and fish and wildlife habitat. Rosboro sold the land to MRT after a closed-bid auction.

“We are grateful to the folks at Rosboro for working with us on this legacy project,” said Joe Moll, Executive Director of the McKenzie River Trust. “When you think of the McKenzie River, you imagine clean blue water, incredible salmon spawning habitat, and healthy floodplain forests. This property has all of that.”

MRT and Rosboro hope to reach agreement in the coming weeks on the sale of additional acreage across the river and nearby, including the Finn Rock Boat launch and a former logging camp used by Rosboro employees until the 1980s. After purchasing these additional parcels, MRT will work with local partners to manage the land, including possible restoration of areas impacted by gravel extraction and timber harvest. Details of the transactions are still being worked out.

In November, the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) authorized a grant to MRT of $250,000 for conservation planning and restoration of McKenzie Camp, as well as up to $500,000 as a matching challenge grant toward long-term stewardship of the site.

“The acquisition and long-term conservation of this property represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the 200,000 people in the greater Eugene area who rely on the McKenzie as their sole source of drinking water,” said Karl Morgenstern, EWEB water source protection manager. “The Trust’s planned activities to enhance the floodplain forest and wetlands in this part of the watershed will contribute in significant ways to EWEB’s source protection efforts.”

MRT used private donations and a low-interest loan from Craft3’s Conservation Bridge Fund program to pay for the purchase. The Conservation Bridge Fund provides loans to conservation organizations like MRT to acquire sensitive lands, restore habitat and protect water quality. The loan program was created through a program related investment and grants from the Meyer Memorial Trust.

MRT will be seeking additional donations and grants to pay back the loan, fund the subsequent purchase and stewardship of the additional parcels, and meet the EWEB challenge grant. Tax deductible gifts will be accepted through the MRT website, mckenzieriver.org, via phone at 541-345-2799, or by mailing a check to McKenzie River Trust, 1245 Pearl St, Eugene, OR 97401.

About the McKenzie River Trust:
The McKenzie River Trust is a nonprofit land trust with a mission to help people protect and care for the lands and rivers they cherish in western Oregon. Since 1989, we’ve acquired property and voluntary conservation easements to protect over 4,000 acres of clean, free-flowing rivers, plentiful salmon runs, and vibrant farms and forests that provide livelihoods and habitat. We envision a future in which conservation lands are at the core of community efforts to sustain clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and diverse natural resource economies in western Oregon. Working with private willing landowners in eight different watersheds from the Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, we take on the responsibility of ensuring that the land and its conservation values will be protected forever. For more information, visit mckenzieriver.org.

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