Posted by: atowhee | March 30, 2015


UPDATE:  I heard back from some correspondents who are far more educated in streams and soil erosion than I.  Here are some additonal facts they pointed out. 

Most of the Ashland Creek watershed is devoid of roads=less erosion.  Ahsland Creek also is largely fed by forestland which means less erosion unless there is human activity.   Some of Bear Creek’s tributaries are water-managed with excess run-off diverted into side channels that do not have capacity for heavy volume creating even more erosion…and Beatr Creek’s watershed includes a lot of dirt/gravel roads.  Also Bear Creek gets water that flows from several reservoirs that might increase the suspension of sediments and soreline erosion during storms and winds.

This is about how we treat our earth and what it can tell us if we pay attention.  A small lesson in contrasts.  Behold the confluence of Ashland Creek and Bear Creek here in Jackson County, Oregon.  Both carry water from mountains that rise above 5000 feet in elevation…but different mountain ranges. acrk clr (1280x960)This is Ashland Creek, clear and fast.  It flows down from the ancient Siskiyou Mountains with their granitic heart.  It carries mostly water from forested hills though it also passes through the heart of town and carries what comes off the streets.  But it passes through only a couple small farms ACRK CLR2 (1280x960)Just a hundred yards from where the Ashland Creek pictures were taken it meets the bigger, muddy Bear Creek.  Bear Creek has several tributaries that drain mostly out of the younger, volcanic Cascades.  Its water passes through grasslands, ranches, small farms, vineyards, logged forest and horse pasture.  While Ashland Creek drains a more heavily populated area, most of its watershed is forested or paved.  Ashland Creek water here is in the foreground before it is thoroughly mixed with the muddy Bear Creek water on the far side. P2380134 (1280x960) P2380137 (1280x960)How much the ashy and clay-laden soils of the volcanic Cascades contributes naturally to the clouded water I cannot say.  I do know that some of Bear Creek tributaries when I see them around 3500′ are running clear like Ashland Creek.  BY the time the two streams join at 1700 feet elevation the bigger stream had become dirty brown.

Nature can fool you at times.  She never lies.


  1. Great explanation of the water turbidity.

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