top of page

Coweeman River and
Baird Creek Restoration

Phase I

This restoration project was the first stage of restoration following the Coweeman  The Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group restored natural processes to 1.37 miles of the Coweeman River watershed previously degraded by historic splash damming. The project focused on critical salmon habitat with a focus on natural origin, ESA-listed, Lower Columbia Chinook, coho, and steelhead. For this phase of the implementation, we focused on the four lower reaches of Baird Creek, in addition to the furthest downstream reach of the Coweeman and the furthest upstream reach of the Coweeman. In completing this project, we installed 47 instream structures, activated 2.68 acres of floodplain habitat, and revegetated 7.01 acres of riparian area. Through this project, we refined known restoration techniques and tuned them for utilization throughout the Coweeman watershed. Weyerhaeuser was a great partner on the project, donating trees from their RMZs and boulders from local quarries.

The Coweeman River offers a unique opportunity to enhance fish productivity in the Lower Columbia River in a watershed where three primary species (Chinook, coho, and steelhead) have access to the headwaters without impairment from dams or waterfalls. The headwaters are also entirely managed by a single landowner, Weyerhaeuser. Despite the enhancement potential, no recent efforts had been undertaken to improve the quality and quantity of fish habitat in the headwaters portion of the Coweeman River and its tributaries since Weyerhaeuser and WDFW completed a near-term treatment in the late 1990s; most of which is no longer present today. Historic forestry practices of splash damming and dynamiting of in-stream boulders in both Baird Creek and the mainstem removed natural roughness elements and flushed much of the large wood and mobile bed material from the upper reaches. Re-accumulation of wood and gravel has been inhibited by the lack of new recruitment of large, mature conifers that act as key habitat features capable of creating and maintaining log jams in this high-energy environment. As a result, reaches that previously contained mixed bedrock-alluvial channels now flow over bedrock, limiting the quantity of available spawning and rearing habitat. Although the upper watershed contains abundant supplies of cold water and suitable-sized sediment, the limited wood supply and corresponding roughness elements prevent the accumulation of bed material, limiting the productivity of salmon and steelhead. In addition, summer stream temperatures downstream of the project area are uniquely high in Coweeman River as compared to other Lower Columbia watersheds. The primary goal of this project was to re-introduce complexity and hydraulic roughness, thereby increasing planform variability which supports pool formation, development of spawning beds, and other critical habitat elements. Anecdotal results show a positive response from coho salmon and steelhead who are spawning in many locations in Baird Creek where there was previously no spawning habitat available.

Phase II

LCFEG will work with Inter-Fluve and Parr Excellence to design and implement a plan to re-establish natural processes in the headwaters of Baird Creek, a Coweeman River tributary in Weyerhaeuser’s St. Helens Tree Farm. This project will culminate instream fish habitat restoration in Baird Creek, which is the furthest upstream of three imperative tributaries in the Coweeman watershed along with Mulholland and Goble Creeks. We plan to establish fish passage upstream, and sediment and large woody debris passage downstream, of the historic Baird Creek splash dam which has been in place since 1901. In addition, we will enhance instream conditions in bedrock-dominant reaches, and create and implement a riparian enhancement plan in the headwaters of Baird Creek upstream of the splash dam. The riparian plan will entail beaver establishment via Beaver Dam Analog (BDA) installation and revegetation efforts. Overall,, this project will increase fish passage, release trapped sediment and LWD, increase water storage capacity, and improve overall habitat conditions that support ESA-listed Lower Columbia Chinook, coho, and steelhead, and build off of past efforts to enhance this watershed for salmonid populations.

During the late summer of 2023, we blew a 40 ft. notch into the side of the historical splash dam that was active during the early 1900s at this project location. The goal of this demolition is to reestablish fish passage and release important sediments that have been trapped for over a century. This barrier removal has been coupled with wood placement. With the help of our consultants and even a helicopter, around 850 pieces of wood were placed into the stream channel to assist with sorting and storing the sediments that are important for the spawning and rearing of salmonids and lamprey.

Watch the video clips from demolition day!

Target Species 


Partners | Consultants


Chinook ​

Phase I: 1.37 Miles of Stream Treated, 2.68 Acres of Floodplain Released

Phase II: 1.4 Miles of Stream Treated, 1 Splash Dam Removed, 850 Pieces of Wood Placed in Floodplain

Inter-Fluve, Parr Excellence, Columbia Helicopter, Weyerhaeuser

WA State Recreation and Conservation Office: Salmon Recovery Funding Board

Phase I (16-1688) $458,407.00

Phase II (20-1080) $294,860.00

bottom of page