Community Conservation

With your support, we’re connecting people to place, and people to people at Finn Rock Reach

For the McKenzie River community, Finn Rock Reach provides more than a critical habitat; it is a place to grow connections. Among the 278-acre riparian floodplain forest, you find a diversity of wildlife, plants, and opportunities to connect with the spirit and history of the site.

Former Logging Camp residents, Linda, David and Irene pause for a photo on Quartz Creek Bridge in 1948

Finn Rock Reach brings people together. From the logging camp that the land was home to from the 1940s-80s to the old McKenzie High School cross country course that encircled river right to the hundreds of people who have gathered to share their stories and inspirations since MRT bought the land in 2016, this place elicits unique connections. Thanks to members like you, we are able to help grow those ties to the land.

While listening to those who have lived, played, and worked at Finn Rock Reach, at times we were surprised by what we heard. In 2017, more than 100 people weighed in on a public survey about how the site might be managed, and multiple community listening sessions brought in the voices of nearly 50 participants. Hundreds more visited the property for educational tours of the boat landing, logging camp site, ponds, and salmon spawning grounds. In a reflection of the spirit of community, we heard an overwhelming desire for opportunities to care directly for this special area through stewardship workdays.

Since that time, thanks to the strong support of members and volunteers, more than 100 people have gotten their hands dirty through education programs, group projects, and the Friends of Finn Rock Reach group. The Friends group alone has contributed more than 500 hours this year, meeting regularly on the first Friday of each month to connect with the land and connect with each other.

“I like the work and being involved in the stewardship, but one aspect I had not anticipated valuing (or even having) is the creation of community around Finn Rock Reach, notes Sarah Hunter, a Blue River resident who lives just upstream of the property. “I always get to meet someone from my community that I would not otherwise have met, and these connections are good for me, the community, and [the land].”

This community extends beyond the members of the Friends group. With a rich history of partnership between the McKenzie School District and the former owners at Rosboro Lumber Company, McKenzie River Trust was called to support educational opportunities for local students, a role we have had little experience with as an organization. With encouragement from our members and by collaborating with the McKenzie Watershed Council and local Science Teacher Nate Day, Finn Rock Reach has become a site for the exploration of earth and life sciences right in the community’s’ backyard. Providing this space for students to learn, experiment, and grow has elevated the impact of protecting this land; the habitat and animals are protected in perpetuity, and now we are helping grow those who will care for it long after we are gone.

Finn Rock Boat Landing Closed for Toilet Facility Remodel March 26 & 27

Hundreds of boaters and anglers use the Finn Rock Boat Landing every day in the summer months. Coming soon, they’ll enjoy the comfort of upgraded toilet facilities. Photo by Ephraim Payne.

Amenities available to boaters and anglers who use the Finn Rock Boat Landing are about to be upgraded to provide more comfort and ease at one of Lane County’s most busy recreational areas. The boat landing will be closed to install toilet facilities March 26 and 27.

McKenzie River Trust will replace the port-a-potty that has been on site for many years with a more accessible and comfortable lavatory.

“This is the first of several improvements we’re making to the boat landing this spring and summer,” said Liz Lawrence, Development Director for McKenzie River Trust. “Other improvements include a new informational kiosk, and improved parking and traffic flow. A possible trailhead is being explored.”

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife donated the vault toilet for the new lavatory, and a grant from Eugene Water & Electric Board enabled the installation to be completed this spring. Other boat landing improvements will be funded from the McKenzie River Trust’s McKenzie Homewaters Capital Campaign that included grants from Oregon State Parks, Land Trust Alliance’s Oregon ACE Program, and the Yarg Foundation.

About the McKenzie River Trust:

The McKenzie River Trust is a nonprofit land trust based in Eugene, Oregon. Our mission is 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 5,700 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 www.mckenzieriver.org.

For more information contact: Liz Lawrence, McKenzie River Trust, office: 541-345-2799 x106 cell: 541-844-9334, llawrence@mckenzieriver.org

Invisible Rivers

In 2009, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board provided support for McKenzie River Trust to create this poster about the function and value of hyporheic zones in rivers. Hyporheic zones are river flows under and adjacent to river channels where riverwater and groundwater meet. When we protect floodplain lands like Green Island, Finn Rock, and Waite Ranch we are ensuring these hyporheic zones remain intact and healthy, providing numerous benefits for ecosystems and people.

Click the image to view full size.
Poster design by Ryan Ruggiero, MRT Land Protection Manager from 2008-2014

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.

McKenzie Homewaters Campaign News Release

A side channel of the McKenzie River flows through Finn Rock Reach, the centerpiece of the $6 million McKenzie Homewaters Campaign. Photo by Tim Giraudier / Beautiful Oregon.

Contact:
Liz Lawrence, McKenzie River Trust, 541-844-9334 cell, 541-345-2799 office
Pat Walsh, Vox PRPA, 541-513-1236

April 7, 2017
For Immediate Release

McKenzie River Trust To Launch The McKenzie Homewaters Campaign

EUGENE, Ore. — McKenzie River Trust will launch The McKenzie Homewaters Campaign to raise $6 million to fund initiatives to protect, conserve, and restore the McKenzie River’s Finn Rock Reach. The Homewaters Campaign will be announced during the McKenzie River Trust’s Sixth Annual McKenzie Memories evening on Fri., April 7, 2017, at Venue 252. The event begins at 7 pm.

“The McKenzie River is a special place that provides life to our communities as a source for clean drinking water, recreation, and habitat for salmon and wildlife,” said Dave Funk of bell+funk and co-chair of the campaign. “The opportunity to ensure a place like Finn Rock Reach is cared for does not come along very often, and the Homewaters Campaign lets us take care of the river that takes care of us.”

In 2015, McKenzie River Trust bought Finn Rock Reach from Rosboro forest products company following a closed-bid auction. The property comprises two miles of land fronting both sides of the McKenzie River, including the popular Finn Rock Boat Landing and the former Finn Rock Logging Camp. McKenzie River Trust used funds from its own Land Protection Fund and a bridge loan for conservation projects to buy the property.

“Funds raised from the campaign will allow McKenzie River Trust to own Finn Rock Reach debt-free and provide the resources necessary to restore and care for it today and in the long-term.” said Hugh Prichard, Prichard Partners, campaign co-chair. “Also, campaign resources will be set aside so the Trust is ready to expand its conservation footprint in the McKenzie Valley as appropriate opportunities present themselves.”

In support of the Trust, Eugene Water & Electric Board will match dollar for dollar the first $500,000 donated to the campaign by Dec. 31, 2017.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to contribute in significant ways to EWEB’s stewardship of the McKenzie River,” said Dick Helgeson, president of the Eugene Water & Electric Board of Commissioners. “To be able to partner with McKenzie River Trust to protect these special lands and the vital water that runs through them is a unique and worthy undertaking for this utility.”

More information about the Homewaters Campaign, including the EWEB matching program, can be found at: mckenzieriver.org/homewaters/

The McKenzie Memories evening is an annual celebration of the history of the McKenzie River. This year’s event features storytelling by Steve Schaefers, Don Wouda, and Dana Burwell from the McKenzie River Guides Association. Gordon Grant, a former river guide, hydrologist, and “water guru” will weave tales of the McKenzie’s unique geology.

There will be a memorial tribute to legendary McKenzie River Guide Dave Helfrich, who died in October 2016, at age 84. Helfrich was known as the consummate outdoorsman, boatman, fisherman, Northwest rivers advocate, and innovator for improving design of the equipment used on the river.

“It is only right that the Homewaters Campaign begins at the Trust’s McKenzie Memories evening,” said Joe Moll, executive director, McKenzie River Trust. “It is a time when we honor our past, celebrate the present, and build to the future.”

Tickets to McKenzie Memories evening are sold out. The event will be live streamed at: facebook.com/McKenzieRiverTrust.

About the McKenzie River Trust:
The McKenzie River Trust is a nonprofit land trust based in Eugene, Oregon. Our mission is 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 nearly 5,000 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 www.mckenzieriver.org.

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