Food & Drink in Baker Creek | Metro

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A few miles west of Sherwood, Baker Creek winds south to north for four miles through ravines topped with farms, ranches, homes and forests. Its waters eventually flow into the Tualatin River. Metro manages four natural areas along the creek that total over 300 acres.

When you first looked at this photo of Baker Creek, you probably thought something like “Wow, that is really pretty”. Perhaps you have spotted one or two species of trees that you recognize; maybe you imagined the animals that live there. Maybe you’ve been spying on the pond and looking for a beaver dam. If you’ve watched it long enough, you probably started to feel like there was so much more that you weren’t seeing. There are mysteries in the photo.

Some people can see in many of these mysteries (usually they find even more).

It takes years, but if you’ve studied something in depth, you can watch it with an almost superhero vision. You see details that most people forget, make connections unknown to others, you even know the structures hidden behind the surface that make everything work. It works for a mechanic watching a car, a musician listening to a song, a gamer playing a game. It happens when Andrea Berkley, one of Metro’s natural resource scientists, looks at a forest.

Andrea also experiences photography in this way. In her role overseeing restoration at Baker Creek with partners from Clean Water Services, she also sees where invasive plants crowd out native species. She sees how the forest is reformed after being cut down. She sees strengths in habitat and what could help make them even stronger.

Let’s take a look at what Andrea sees after she says, “Wow, that’s really pretty. “

Baker Creek in Washington County. Photo courtesy of Clean Water Services.

1. Forest health

A few miles west of Sherwood, Baker Creek winds south to north for four miles through ravines topped with farms, ranches, homes and forests.  Its waters eventually flow into the Tualatin River.  Metro manages four natural areas along the creek

The hills along Baker Creek have been mined in the past and are now home to a young forest with a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees between 20 and 40 years old. Plant communities are slowly but steadily recovering from this past disturbance, with a beautiful display of wildflowers on the forest floor in the spring. Some areas are overcrowded with trees, especially Douglas-fir and Bigleaf maple, which grow quickly after harvesting. Many of these trees will not survive dense conditions, and slower growing species will never stand a chance. Metro will thin out these stands, allowing more species to grow into taller, healthier trees.

2. Bigleaf maples

A drone image of the canopy of a forest with coniferous and deciduous trees.

There are many Bigleaf Maples along Baker Creek that were felled, but survived, when Douglas Fir was harvested decades ago. These maples sent out a lot of new shoots, which have now formed trees with several large trunks emerging from a single root mass. Those root shoots are now the death knell for these trees – as those trunks get bigger and heavier, these maple trees will split open like a blossoming onion at the Outback Steakhouse. To preserve these trees, we will thin out the trees, leaving the healthiest trunks behind to grow into big, hardy maples.

3. Wetlands built by beavers

A drone image of a swimming pool behind a beaver dam.  Several beaver dams are located behind the pool.

Throughout Baker Creek you will come across beaver dams, old and new. Older dams are covered with trees and shrubs; the new dams have freshly harvested sticks and mud. Beaver dams provide enormous environmental benefits by creating wetlands, often referred to as “biological supersystems” because of the rich biodiversity they contain. These wetlands increase the number of fish and wildlife, but they also protect the watershed from the effects of drought by saturating the soil and recharging the water tables. And by slowing the water flowing down a stream, they reduce the rate of soil erosion, which keeps the water cleaner.

4. Fish passage

A drone image of a stream crossing a grassy mound.

The Tualatin River and the streams that feed there are home to many native fish species, including rainbow trout, coho salmon, and cutthroat trout. Although Baker Creek is home to many native fish species, searches for salmon up to Mountain Creek Road have remained empty. Metro and Clean Water Services work together to find and modify or remove obstacles like culverts or small dams that block the migration of salmon up and downstream. In 2022, Metro and Clean Water Services will remove a small dam in one of the natural areas along Baker Creek. Small dams can create high water temperatures and lower dissolved oxygen levels, two bad news for animals living in the stream.

5. Shape of the flow channel

A drone image of a stream breaking into several channels with patches of green plants between them.

Baker Creek and other similar streams have undergone many changes as people have worked the landscape. Cutting down trees, introducing invasive species, and developing along the creek corridor all push precipitation down into the creek faster. All of this rapid water erodes the soil along the edges and at the bottom of the stream, making the water cloudy and gradually changing the stream from a meandering shape to a straighter channel that rarely extends to the floodplain. The flood zone is a rich habitat where all kinds of creatures and plants live, including juvenile salmon looking for tasty insects to eat to fatten up during the floods. Along Baker Creek Channel, straightening and erosion have been slowed by nighttime beaver work.

6. Canary grass reed

Drone image of a wetland filled with a green plant called canopy, which is an invasive weed.

Reed canarygrass is one of the most successful invasive aquatic plants in the Pacific Northwest. It is propagated by seeds and rhizomes, crawling underground stems that produce plants far from the parent. This grass begins its growing season before many native plants, which means it crowds them out before they even start to grow. These dense stands are of little value to wildlife or insects and disrupt food chains in wetlands and along waterways. Clean Water Services treats the canarygrass, then rapidly plants at least 3,000 native sedges, rushes, grasses, shrubs and trees per acre. These plants will eventually supplant weed weeds.

7. Nature knows no borders

A drone image of a forest with several large patches of yellow Scotch Broom, an invasive weed.

Yellow plants are Scotch Broom, a prolific invasive bush you’ve likely seen on the side of freeways. These plants grow on a property next to the natural area. Unfortunately, weeds don’t care about property lines. The best thing we can do to keep the broom out is to periodically scan for it and remove it and make sure that various groups of native plants thrive so that there is no room for the bad ones. invasive grasses.


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