Elkhorn Creek is a unique, pristine, low-elevation stream with limited access, providing a landscape with few signs of human disturbance or activity until the lower 0.6-mile segment. It flows through the heavily forested and rugged foothills of the west side of the Cascade Range and within the Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area, which is known for its majestic old-growth forests. The creek is accessible by roads in only two places.
Of particular note, Oregon slender salamanders, the only amphibian endemic to Oregon, can be found in the adjacent Douglas-fir stands and is listed by the state as a Species of Concern. It is most common in mature Douglas fir forests and is apparently dependent on mature and old-growth stands. The salamander is found under rocks, wood, wood chips at the base of stumps, and under the bark and moss of logs. They are also found in decomposing logs.
A number of bat species of concern can be found in the stream corridor, associated with caves, mines, bridges, buildings, cliff habitat, or large snags with sloughing bark.
The late successional forest also provides nesting habitat for a number of migratory birds with those particular life cycle needs.
September 30, 1996. This wild and scenic river consists of a 5.8 mile wild river area, extending from a point along the Willamette National Forest to its confluence with Buck Creek. A smaller segment of 0.6 miles, designated as a scenic river area, extends from the confluence of Buck Creek to that point where the segment leaves the Bureau of Land Management boundary in Township 9.
Healthy populations of native cutthroat and rainbow trout reside in Elkhorn Creek. Upper Willamette River winter-run steelhead trout and spring Upper Willamette River chinook salmon—both listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act—inhabit lower Elkhorn Creek, as do coastal cutthroat trout and various sculpins.
Scenic qualities of the creek’s meandering corridor include a range of features, from vertical rock outcrops to dense, relatively undisturbed and mature forest. Within the creekside habitat, visitors to the Elkhorn Creek area will find big-leaf maple, red alder, Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western red cedar, with understory shrub layers of vine maple, huckleberries, salal, Oregon grape, and sword ferns.