I dropped down out of the bright summer sun into the forest that blankets the steep canyon wall above the North Fork of Deep Creek near Boring. The transition to cool air and streaks of sunlight breaking through the tree canopy was sudden and welcomed. Just a few days earlier, Metro acquired this new natural area, and today was my first opportunity to explore it more closely.
When Metro first acquires a new natural area, we spend time getting to know the land better, just as I was doing on this exploration. On our walks through new natural areas, we look for degraded conditions, such as erosion or invasive weeds. We develop a list of work to do in the near term to promote healthy habitat and protect water quality.
The 50-acre forest buffers more than 2,000 feet of the North Fork of Deep Creek – a stream where steelhead and coho salmon spawn. It has as all the features scientists like me love. As I walked down from the top of the canyon, I passed through layers of the forest: the tree tops, then the mid-canopy (favored by pygmy owls and pileated woodpeckers) and finally to the terrace above the creek as the trail reached the flat land of the old floodplain.
Fortunately, the former owners were good stewards. There is no trash on the land, and the old farm road is in good condition. They constructed a small dam that pools the water on the terrace above the creek. That pond is my destination today.
The pond and the adjacent pockets of forested wetlands provide a diverse habitat for native wildlife. Some likely residents include redlegged frogs and northwestern salamanders in and around the pond and long-toed and Oregon slender salamanders under moist dead wood scattered through the forest.
Or so I hope. In the summer the pond dries up and that’s how I found it that day. But based on our knowledge of the habitat needs of our native amphibians, this pond looks promising. In an earlier visit, during the winter breeding season, the pond was drenched in sun and full with open water.
The surrounding forest has a few of my favorite things, such as snags (standing dead trees) and big pieces of down wood. The combination of seasonal water, dead wood and deep forest duff create great habitat for Pacific Northwest
amphibians. Although some of our native amphibians require ponds for breeding, the forest floor and dead wood are equally important and provide shelter during most of the year.
Typically, we remove small dams like the one holding back the seasonal water on this site. Letting the water follow its natural path through the forest usually has the most benefits for wildlife and water quality. But with increasing awareness of the loss of suitable habitat for native amphibians, we recognize that some manmade ponds can help fill the gap.
I am not an amphibian expert, so next time, I’ll bring some colleagues who are. Their advice will guide how we manage this little pond. The surrounding forest is in great shape. There are scattered patches of invasive weeds, such as blackberry and English holly. Fortunately, these invasives are relatively easy to control. All in all, this new natural area does not need much intervention from Metro staff to keep providing a great space for amphibians and other wildlife.
Help restore natural areas that need extra care