Rogue Basin Fish Ladder Projects

Have you ever gotten tired of waiting for something to be done about a problem that seems so easily fixable?  Well, that's exactly what happened with me when contemplating a man-made barrier on Lazy Creek that for one reason or another was not being removed or fixed.  Lazy Creek is a major tributary of Bear Creek which is one of the Rogue River's more prolific spawning basins.  The creek's first major barrier is literally 100 yards up from it's mouth and blocks off what could be miles of beautiful spawning and rearing habitat for both salmon and steelhead.  I simply couldn't wait around anymore for someone else to fix it!  So.........................

Juvenile salmon and steelhead attempting to jump an impassable barrier on Lazy Creek.  This box culvert is the end of the road for young salmonids trying to reach vital wintering habit.  Not only is this barrier a dead end but it also proves to be a fish killer as many juveniles are left high and dry on the rocks after launching onto the bank.  

For the first time, last year I witnessed adult steelhead attempting pass over the barrier.  I could hear them hitting the cement wall each time as they failed.  It was hard to watch!

Above are pictures from upstream of the barrier.  This is not only ideal spawning and wintering habit but the upper reaches of Lazy Creek also maintain suitable flows and temperatures for rearing juvenile salmon and steelhead through the region's hot summer months.  Such summer sanctuaries are few and far between in Southern Oregon.

Watching hundreds of juvenile chinook jumping at the face of the culvert last spring was the straw that broke the camel's back and started us down the path of building the Lazy Creek fish ladder.  These young salmon were attempting to find a cool water sanctuary to rear through the summer.  That's exactly what's upstream of the barriers.  So we started the quest of assuring that salmon and steelhead would have free passage to the headwaters of Lazy Creek.

First step!  Fill the 3 ft deep plunge pool below falls.  12 yards of crushed rock were shoveled in by hand.  That's more than a dump truck load!

Pool was filled and leveled with rock.  Then it was covered with screen to minimize erosion from beneath concrete slab platform.

Prepping rebar before pouring slab.

Prepped and ready to pour!

32 bags of concrete mixed in a trash can!

Playing legos and mixing more concrete!  22 more bags!

Phase 1 done!  Ready for more rock!

More screen and 8 more yards of rock to support ladder and direct fish to it's entrance.

Screen is then closed up with wire and secured with large boulders.   Large rock was also used to create a jump-pool for first step of ladder.  Left side nearly done!  Ready to move onto the right!


Juvenile steelhead making the first step up the ladder on the way to it's new winter refuge!

Young of the year steelhead.  It was one of the first I documented that made its way through the ladder!

Healthy teenager caught a mile upstream of the ladder in an ODFW trap monitoring salmon and steelhead populations using the newly accessable reaches of the Lazy Creek.

As enthusiastic as I was to take on this task, I had no idea how much it would ultimately end up costing.  It ended up being a situation of "the never ending project".   The further we got into it, the more we learned, and the more tweeks and additions we needed.  A matter of fact, with the first autumn rains, I continued to add more rock and concrete as I saw how the water moved and the fish reacted.  And once the water dropped this spring,  I've had to add more rock and concrete to reinforce and repair damage after the winter's high water.  Up to date, I am in $2700 on the Lazy Creek ladder alone.  I have paid for every penny of it out of my own pocket.   I was fortunate enough to have a good friend write a check for the initial cost of the Jackson Creek ladder.  But once again, since its completion, I have continued to add more block, rocks, and concrete.  I am now in another$250 on the Jackson Creek project.  I have set up this site to hopefully recoup what I spent in material costs on both of these projects as well as the fish traps we've just now built.  I am more than happy to volunteer my time to build these things but have simply reached a point where I can't afford to pay for them.  Please help so we can continue our work!

Here's a quick look at the Jackson Creek ladder we built:

Jackson Creek ladder nearly done!

Hanley Road culvert has completely blocked fish passage for almost 70 years!  It sadly has been the road block to over 10 miles of some of the Rogue Basin's best spawning and rearing habitat for both salmon and steelhead.

Laying the block!

First water to flow through ladder!  Far from done!

Salmon and steelhead are now able to pass freely to this and 10 more miles of such perfect habitat!

A picture of possibly the most meaningful fish I've ever caught.  This juvenile steelhead was caught upstream of the Jackson Creek ladder during a survey I did with ODFW.  Fish of this size are about a year and a half old and have simply migrated upstream looking for rearing habitat.  Given the fact that the ladder had only been in about 6 months at point of capture, this fish doesn't represent proof of spawning.   But still so rewarding to know that our efforts have proven worthwhile.  Look how healthy this little guy is!  The creek is obviously full of fish food and great rearing habitat!

In March, we observed our first adult upstream of the old Hanley Road barrier and got one step closer to verifying the ladder has opened up new habitat to active spawning in Jackson Creek.  

The very fact that we have had such a hard time documenting adults upstream of the ladder is indicative of just how healthy this Rogue tributary is.  The long stretches of perfect spawning gravel are accompanied by an endless number of deep pools, cut banks, log jams, beaver dams and deposits of large woody structure.  When walking the stream, I honestly felt like it could be full of fish and it would be nearly impossible to spot one.  We were obviously very lucky to find this female tucked up under some over-hanging blackberries.

As spring approached, I'd been more than anxious to see if the female we found above the Jackson Cr ladder had found a boyfriend.  I will never walk the banks of a river again and take for granted the little fry I see darting around the shallows.  The first young of the year I witnessed above the old barrier changed my perspective on what a miracle each of these truly are.  We've now found several pods of fry spread over a couple miles of creek that I'm certain represent at least a few different spawns.  Success!

Still a lot of work to be done around the Rogue Basin.  Please help us recoup our costs so we can continue on! 

Next project at hand!
Thank you!

I plan to make regular posts at this site to keep everybody updated on the latest with both Jackson and Lazy Creek.  We currently have four traps at different locations on Jackson Creek to monitor downstream migration of juvies.   I'll try to keep regular counts posted here for those interested.

Jackson Creek Trap #1 (most upper)

Jackson Creek Trap #2

Jackson Creek Trap #3

Jackson Creek Trap #4 (Lowest)

Catch and carry of Jackson Creek fish from trap sites to below irrigation diversion dams.  The traps not only allow us to monitor numbers, population distribution and migration timing but also enables us to leap frog the fish far enough down the creek that they don't have to survive the hurdles presented by a number of irrigation dams.  This effort will drastically decrease the mortality caused by pumps, screens, and high water temps.

Jackson traps fish counts:

5/5/19     Upper    1 SH fry
                     Lower     3 SH fry

5/6/19     Upper     0     Irrigation gate was down so trap was flooded
                     Lower     1 SH fry                                               59 degrees.   Trap was partially blown out
                                        1 bluegill
                                        3 SH fry netted below trade

5/7/19      Upper    0    Gate down
                      Lower    13 SH fry                                               58 degrees
                                         3 SH smolts (6-7")
                                          2 shiners
                                          4 SH fry netted below trap
               Walked OSU research reach.   Few fry in lower end.  Lots in the couple hundred yard stretch below washout as creek leaves Hanley Rd. 

5/8/19       Upper    0     Gate down
                       Lower    8 SH fry                                                   58 degrees a.m. /   65 degrees p.m.
                                         3 SH smolts (6-7")
                                         1 bluegill
                                         2 SH fy netted

5/9/19        Upper

5/10/19     Upper

5/11/19     Upper

5/12/19     Upper

5/13/19     Upper     6 SH parr                                               56 degrees
                                           2 shiners
                        Lower     7 SH parr                                               60 degrees
                                           1 SH fry

5/14/19     Upper     18 SH parr                                            57 degrees
                                           1 largemouth bass 14"
                                           1 shiner
                          Lower   1 SH smolt (5")                                   60 degrees
                                           18 SH parr 
                                           1 shiner 
                                           2 bluegill
5/15/19       #1           6 SH parr                                                 56 degrees
                                           2 fry
                                           2 shiners
                                           1 lamprey
                           #2          10 fry
                                            2 shiners
                           #3           1 SH parr
                                            3 fry
                           #4           1 SH smolt (6")                                    60 degrees
                                            47 SH parr
                                            1 fry

5/15 release party!

5/16/19            #1    2 SH parr
                               #2    5 SH parr
                               #3     8 SH parr
                               #4    38 SH parr

5/17/19            #1    4 SH parr                                        56 degrees - cooler after rain storm
                               #2    0      Entrance clogged after storm
                               #3    7 SH parr
                               #4    21 SH parr                                     58 degrees
                                         1 Largemouth bass
                                         1 Crawdad

5/18/19            #1    9 SH parr                                         No temps or details.  Had someone else check trap
                               #2    2 SH parr
                               #3    8 SH parr
                                         5 dead SH parr
                               #4    17 SH parr

5/19/19            #1     6 SH parr                                        56 degrees
                                          2 shiners
                               #2     0       -   blown out after high water
                               #3     6 SH parr 
                                          1 fry
                                           5 dead SH parr
                               #4      14 SH parr                                    58 degrees
                                           2 shiners

5/20/19            #1    1 SH parr                                        54 degrees - blown out after high water
                                         1 fry
                                #2    12 fry   -  all herded into it
                                #3     9 SH parr   -  no dead after moving trap back to deeper water
                                #4     1 SH smolt (4-5")                     56 degrees
                                            20 SH parr
                                            1 sculpin
                                            4 shiners

5/21/19            #1       5 SH parr                                     54 degrees 
                               #2       14 SH parr                                                               
                               #3        6 SH parr                                                                  
                               #4        15 SH parr                                56 degrees
                                             3 shiners
                    Rain last night creek came up a bit.  Biggest out- migration seems to happen during                                dropping/warming conditions.

5/30/19           #1         8 SH parr                                   62 degrees
                                             1 shiner
                              #2         1 shiner
                              #3          52 SH parr
                                              1 shiner (red finned)
                             #4           123 SH parr    -  big increase in outmigration with water temp rising again
                                              1 SH smolt (7")
                                              1 SH fry
                                              1 shiner
5/31/19          #1           31 SH parr                               65 degrees
                                              2 shiners
                              #2         0 - removed one fence 
                              #3         35 SH parr
                              #4         154 SH parr
                                              2 shiners

Biggest release to date!  154 steelhead juvis released below last irrigation diversion dam.  Free sailing from this point on as they continue their down migration to the cooler waters of the Rogue River where they will spend the summer months.  

The new #2 trap site!  Third pipe and trap box still needs to be installed.

We are very fortunate to have some land owners working with us on our Jackson Creek project.  Not only have they been willing to let us trap and monitor on their property but have now given us the green light to retrofit their irrigation diversion dam with a fish trap.  The primary goal of this modification is to improve passage for out-migrating juvis that are very hesitant to swim over a large barrier with very little flow going over the top of it.  The 4" holes in the diversion boards direct flow and therefore the young fish to the corner of the dam where a surprisingly strong suction captures even the most reluctant migrants.  This trap set-up will also give us a much more accurate assessment of spawning escapement above the Hanley Rd ladder.  We are hoping this is the first of what will be the model for all of the diversion dams throughout the valley.  Once again, your support is helping us with all these efforts!

6/1/19       #1         74 SH parr
                                      3 shiners
                       #2         14 - the new #2 trap at dam site
                       #3         154 SH parr
                                      1 shiner
                  Ended up having to release all the fish above trap #3 before transport because it was obvious they were being stressed.   Over 200 in a bucket is way too many!  Will be more prepared next time.  Going to purchase an aerator and more buckets!
                       #4         Didn't have time to get to trap #4 before running off to Portland for my son's basketball and could find someone to fill-in.  If you live locally in the Rogue Valley and are interested in helping monitor traps, please contact me.  Love to get others involved as we increase the number of monitoring sites.

6/2/19       Too many in bucket to catch and carry.  14 in trap #2, 74 in #1, 143 in trap #3 released in log jam pool below Ross.

6/3/19       No time for catch and carry.  34 in trap #2 let go below Ross Bridge.  351 in trap #3 released up stream of trap.

6/4/19        #1           78 SH parr
                        #2           7 SH parr
                        #3           237 SH parr
                        #4           197 SH parr
                                         1 SH smolt
                                         2 sculpin

6/5/19        #1           191 SH parr                  64 degrees      Creek is getting very low
                                         2 shiners
                         #2          38 SH parr
                                         1 SH smolt 9"
                         #3          168 SH parr
                                         1 lamprey
                          #4         236 SH parr
                                         2 fry
                                         1 shiner

6/7/19         #1          103  SH parr    
                         #2          13 SH parr 
                         #3          25 SH parr 
                                         30+ crawfish 
                         #4          227 SH parr   63 degrees 

6/8/19         #1         105 SH parr    60 degrees 
                                        1 shiner
                                        1 lamprey   
                         #2         23 parr        
                                        3 baby bass
                         #3         14 SH parr   Trap plugged by beavers.   100+ crawfish
                         #4          242 SH parr   
                                         2 fry
                                         2 shiners   
                                         2 fat head minnow
6/9/19         #1         185 SH parr    58 degrees
                                         2 shiners
                          #2         8 SH parr   
                                         3 baby bass
                          #3         34 SH parr
                                         1 shiner
                          #4         173 SH parr   58 degrees

6/10/19      #1          132 SH parr     
                                         2 shiners
                          #2         5 SH parr   Pipe broke
                          #3         46 SH parr    
                                         2 shiners    
                           #4       67 SH parr 
Rescued 9 SH parr at the Kane Cr trap.  Walked 200 yards of creek up from Foley Lane.  Creek was still flowing but spotted no fish.  They must have successfully migrated down. 

6/11/19      #1          86 SH parr 
                                         2 shiners
                         #2          7 SH parr 
                         #3          6 SH parr 
                                         3 shiners
                         #4          79 SH parr    65 degrees 
                                         1 fry
                                        10 shiner fry
Rescued 17 at Kane Cr trap just above dry-up point.  


6/12/19        Guided today.  Didn’t make it to Jackson Creek traps.  Rescued 19 SH parr on Kane Cr.  Trap is now dry so fish were dip netted out of landlocked pools.  

6/13/19       #1          407 SH parr  
                          #2          57  SH parr 
                          #3          48  SH parr 
                          #4          378  SH parr 

6/14/19       #1          273 SH parr
                          #2          29  SH parr 
                          #3         54   SH parr 
                          #4         115 SH parr 
No temps details for prior two days.  I had a fill-in checking trap.  

6/17/19       #1           88 SH parr 
                          #2           12 SH parr 
                                           1 resident rainbow 
                          #3            27 SH parr 
                          #4            49 SH parr 

6/19/19       #1        100 SH parr   
                          #2         18 SH parr    
                          #3          0         Diversion gate up and trap was flooded.  Lid floated off
                          #4         44 SH parr 
                                         30+ baby bass

No temps details for prior two days.  I had a fill-in checking trap.  

6/23/19        #1        28 SH parr   
                           #2        7 SH parr   
                           #3        43 SH parr   
                            #4       19 SH parr   
                                          Lots of baby bass

6/26/19        #1        21 SH parr   
                           #2        3 SH parr     
                           #3        30 SH parr   Beaver blocked trap.
                           #4        10 SH parr 
No details or counts other than SH because I had someone filling in to check traps.

6/30/19        #1        54 SH parr    
                                         1 baby bass
                                         2 shiners
                                         1 flat head minnow    
                            #2       11 SH parr   
                                          2 baby bass   
                            #3       12 SH parr 
                                          Lots of shiner fry.     Trap plugged by beavers.
                             #4       13 SH parr   
                                          2 bluegill
                                          4 baby bass
                                          2 shiners
                                          1 flathead minnow
Beavers had completely dammed creek just above logjam above trap 3.  Tore the dam out to allow fish passage.

7/2/19             #1          21 SH parr       69 degrees evening water temp
                             #2          4 SH parr          68 degrees evening water temp
                             #3          15 SH parr       68 degrees evening water temp
                             #4          8 SH parr 
                                             1 sculpin
Small steelhead parr with a mouthful of shiner fry!  Definitely a future intruder eater!!!

7/3/19             #1         11 SH parr
                             #2          8 SH parr
                             #3          2 fry                 68 degrees evening water temp
                                             6 parr
                                             1 sculpin
                             #4          3 fry                 67 degrees evening water temp
                                             23 parr
                                             2 sculpin
                                             1 catfish
                                             2 flathead minnows
67 degrees evening temp at release point.  Starting to be too many shiner fry to counts.  Continues to be many juvenile bass.

7/4/19              #1           4 SH parr       68 degrees evening water temp
                              #2           1 SH parr        70 degrees evening water temp
                              #3           2 fry                   69 degrees evening water temp
                              #4           4 fry                   69 degrees evening water temp
                                               14 SH parr     
                                               1 sculpin
                                               1 catfish
67 degrees evening water temp at release point.

7/5/19             #1           3 SH parr         68 degrees morning water temp
                             #2           1 SH parr         68 degrees morning water temp
                             #3           1 SH parr         68 degrees morning water temp
                             #4           6 fry                    68
                                              14 SH parr      
                                               3 catfish
68 degrees morning water temp at release point

Added another trap (#3b) about halfway between traps 3 and 4 today.  This trap is just above the point where the largest amount of irrigation water is diverted into the creek.  Should provide a better capture point than #4 given the smaller flows.  Also removed trap #1.  It was only a short distance above #2 and this site is fishing better.  

Obviously fish counts have significantly dropped off.  Hopefully a good sign that most of them have successfully made it down to the Rogue before the lethal summer creek temps have set in.  

7/8/2019         #1        Removed    
                              # 2        8 SH parr 
                              # 3         4 SH parr 
                              # 3b      9 SH parr 
                              #4          1 SH parr 

7/9/2019        #2          7 SH parr 
                              #3          2 SH parr    
                              #3b       2 fry
                                              1 sculpin   
                              #4          2 SH parr 

Trap 3b was blown out as debris washed down.  Who knows how long it didn’t fish.

7/10/2019     #2          3 SH parr  
                              #3          5 SH parr
                              #3b       3 SH parr
                              #4          3 SH parr
                                              1 sculpin

Trap 3b had partially blown out again so maybe a few slipped by.  Still getting the kinks worked out at this site.

7/12/2019      #2        8 SH parr 
                               #3        0  Irrigation gate down so trap was flooded 
                               #3b     3fry 
                                             2 SH parr 
                                             3 sculpin
                               #4       3 fry
                                            1 SH parr
                                            3 catfish 

One of the reasons we are transporting the fish caught at trap sites below the irrigation diversion dams.  The above pictures show a steelhead parr that died after being sucked against pump screen at dam site.  We are currently working to resolve the issues at these dam sites so fish transport will no longer be necessary.    

7/13/2019     #2     1 fry     70 degrees morn
                                         1 SH 
                              #3     2 fry     70 degrees morn
                                         3 SH 
                                         1 sculpin
                                         1 flathead minnow
                              #3b   2 fry    69 degrees morn 
                                          3 SH 
                                          1 sculpin  
                             Trap 3b  fished 100% today.  No water went around or under for first time since it’s been in.
                              #4      1 fry     70 degrees morn

Still evidence of a couple different hatches.  Clearly seeing two distinct sizes.  This is either evidence of some winter steelhead spawning or more likely just a result of the two different high water events we had this winter.  This could have clearly led to two different up-migrations of adult summer steelhead.

7/15/2019      #2     0.    71  degrees @ 2:30
                               #3     2 (50mm)  70 degrees 
                               #3b  1(40mm) 2(50mm)      
      1(60mm).    71 degrees @ 3:00
                               #4      0  not 1 fish  71 @ 3:45

7/16/2019       #2     0.     71 @ 3:30
                                #3     2(40mm)   71 @ 6:00
                                #3b   2(40mm)   3(50mm)  
      3 sculpin  2 flathead.  73 @ 5:30 
                                #4      2(40mm) 1(60mm)             
       73 degrees @ 7:30 @ 630.   Significantly @ all the traps.  Lowest it’s been since irrigation water was dumped in.

8/5/2019          #2     1 (60mm)  72 deg@3:30
                                #3      0   74 deg @ 4:00
        Beaver plugged hole.  Side creek 78 deg
76 deg below confluence 
                                #3b   3(50mm) 76 deg @7:00
                                #4      1(70mm) 75 deg @7:30
          Creek is at it lowest point yet.  Water below pipes at trap 2 dam site.  Only water flowing below that point is seepage at dam site.  Deeper pools still have plenty of water but minimal flow between pools.  Afternoon water temps still seem to be ok.

             Into the first week of August, still seeing juvenile steelhead less than 50mm which may suggest some winter steelhead spawning.  The biggest outmigration of summer steelhead juveniles occurred the first two weeks of June and most were already 60mm or longer.   Still have a ton to learn about this small stream.

Taken August 5

We are currently working on retro-fitting a diversion dam on Jackson Cr with a fish trap.  This design will not only allow for easy outmigration passage but will enable us to take a more accurate count of juvi populations.
Thank you so much for all the support!  We’ll keep up the work on our end and keep you posted as we go!  

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