Learn about the goals and objectives for habitat and water quality protection in the Wapato Lake target area. View maps illustrating the Metro Council's priorities in this area and learn more about the importance of the area to our region.
Tier I Objective
Tier II Objective
What was once Wapato Lake lies near Gaston and Forest Grove close to the headwaters of the Tualatin River. Farm uses and growers have helped maintain the rural character of the area and provided stewardship of this land for decades. Historically, Wapato Lake was one of the most important waterfowl sites in the Willamette Valley. The lake basin held water year-round, supporting a large wetland scrub-shrub community, which included diverse wildlife and the wetland plant known as wapato, whose tuber was an important potato-like staple for native and early Americans. With seasonal floodwaters of the Tualatin River, the lake would spread from approximately 600 acres to nearly 1,500 acres. The organic peat soils of the lakebed are a large and unique remnant of a wetland system once widely distributed in the Willamette Valley but scarce today.
In the 1930s, local landowners dammed, ditched and drained the lake in order to use the area for agricultural purposes. Even with vast changes over the years, the lake is still used extensively by tundra swans, geese and dabbling ducks. Much of the Wapato Lake area was recently designated a National Wildlife Refuge. There exists the potential to connect more than 5,000 acres of wetland habitat from Cornelius to the southwestern edge of Washington County.
This ancient lakebed historically supported large numbers of waterfowl, including tundra swans. This flood-prone bottomland of the Tualatin River is being considered as a future wildlife refuge that will connect to existing public lands to the north located near Forest Grove and Hillsboro and attract tourists to Washington County. The area has the highest potential for protecting wildlife habitat and water quality in this part of the region, and also offers significant restoration opportunities.
In September 2007 the Metro Council approved acquisition plans for each of the 27 regional target areas. The Metro Council established these priorities with the input of natural resource and land use experts, scientists, citizens and local land managers. More than 500 people attended eight community open houses to share their ideas with Metro Councilors. Nearly 1,000 people filled out questionnaires ranking their priorities and offering ideas for partnerships and other ways to stretch the public's investment. The acquisition plans include a map, goals and objectives for each target area.
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Natural Areas Program