Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the Yakama Indian Nation (YN) have forged a strong partnership to restore important wetland habitats in eastern Washington. This partnership is based on the philosophy that restored or enhanced wetlands must provide for the habitat needs of all wetland wildlife including steelhead, an endangered species in eastern Washington, and culturally important species for Yakama tribal members. The YN owns and manages several hundred acres of wetlands in the floodplain of the Yakima River, most of which are open to regulated public access. Toppenish Creek, a free flowing tributary to the Yakima River, is the most important steelhead production stream in the Yakima River system.
DU completed several wetland restoration and enhancement projects for the YN in low lying sloughs and ancient oxbows in close proximity to the Yakima River and Toppenish Creek, including the Lower Satus, Wanity Slough and the Zimmerman Ranch projects. Juvenile steelhead are heavily dependent on floodplain wetlands to rest, feed and find refuge from flood flows while migrating downstream, ultimately to the Pacific Ocean. These treed and shrubby wetlands also provide excellent nesting and rearing habitat for mallards, teal, Canada geese, osprey and great blue herons. The highest nesting densities of wood ducks in the State also occur in this area.
DU recently completed construction of the Campbell Road project in consultation with YN waterfowl and fish biologists Tracy Hames and Dave Lind. Over $65,000, funded by the YN and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, was spent removing levees along Toppenish Creek to reunite the Creek with its floodplain. Numerous seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands were restored by re-connecting sloughs and oxbows with the main channel and installing several low dikes to spread water across the floodplain during high flows in the Creek.
Woody riparian vegetation will be re-established along the Creek to improve habitat conditions for wildlife, including steelhead. In time, the Campbell Road property will support groves of willow and cottonwood trees, and these wetlands and riparian forests will once again function biologically and hydrologically as they did in the past.