North Fork Silver Creek
The Silver Creek watershed is located deep within the ecologically diverse Klamath Mountains province of southwestern Oregon. The distinctive plant and animal associations of the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion are influenced by the diverse geology, unique soils, steep mountainous terrain, and the mild wet, winters and warm, dry summers which characterize the area. For example, the North Fork Silver Creek watershed hosts at least 16 distinctive plant community associations within its watershed boundary, and the specially designated North Fork Silver Creek Research Natural Area was established to capture a representative sample of this unique plant species diversity.
Wildland fire is a primary agent of natural disturbance in this landscape, with over 90% of the watershed having been affected by two major wildfires within the past 40 years. This created a patchwork of forest and shrublands which contributes greatly to the diversity of vegetation types found in the area.
The creek is generally remote and provides excellent opportunities for visitors to experience the creek for day and overnight use in a primitive, natural setting.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) studies from 1990 and 1992 found North Fork Silver Creek to be both eligible and suitable for inclusion into the National System, with outstandingly remarkable scenery, recreation, fish, and wildlife outstandingly remarkable values (ORV). Additional potential ORV’s for the creek were identified following designation—ecological/biological diversity, water quality, fisheries, and wildlife.
March 12, 2019. From its headwaters in T 35 S, R 9 W, Section 1 downstream to the western edge of the Bureau of Land Management boundary in T 35 S, R 9 W, Section 17, Willamette Meridian.
Vegetation of the North Fork of Silver Creek is dominated by a diverse mixed conifer and hardwood forest resulting from the region’s dynamic interaction of soil type, climate, geology, elevation, and wildfire disturbance. Four major plant series and 16 unique plant associations characterize the vegetation of the watershed with its high conifer and shrub diversity including Brewer spruce, Sierra laurel, and Sadlers oak. Several wet meadow complexes add to the diversity. Greater than 90% of the watershed has been designated as late successional reserve, characterized by the complex vertical structure unique to mature and old-growth forest stands. The watershed also includes habitat, or potential habitat, for 47 other BLM special status species.
Silver Creek is one of the most important tributaries of the Illinois River watershed system (itself a tributary of the wild and scenic Rogue River) for wild fish production and is considered critical habitat for a Endangered Species Act listed coho salmon run. The North Fork of Silver Creek contains fall chinook salmon, winter steelhead, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout. Blocked from upstream fish migration by a 30-foot-high waterfall, the designated section contains resident populations of rainbow and cutthroat trout.
Located in a scenic forest setting, the colorful bedrock of the streambed, together with its series of scenic pools and cascades, provides outstanding opportunities to enjoy the cold, clear water of this remote creek. An adjacent forest road provides good access to the area for day use and overnight dispersed camping in this lightly visited area. Seasonal recreation enjoyed by visitors include camping, hunting, and swimming, or just simply relaxing on the sun-warmed bedrock along the trickling creek, deep in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains.
The mixed conifer/hardwood forest, diversity of vegetation, the unique color and texture of the bedrock pools, and the sparkling cascades of clean, cold water provide the backdrop for a diversity of scenic views that contribute significantly to the quality of the recreation setting. The designated section contains excellent scenery due to its unique pool and cascade stream flow and stream bed characteristics.
Uncommonly cold, clear water supports the recreation, scenery, and fishery values of the North Fork of Silver Creek. The stream leaps and lunges down the many cascades, filling the deep pools during the long, hot summers of the Klamath-Siskiyou Mountains. Streamflow in the creek exhibits the typical seasonal variations in rainfall, with peak flows occurring during the high-intensity, long-duration storm events of winter and early spring. In turn, the vigorous flow dependent disturbance regime supports a functional streamside riparian vegetation community. These high-intensity flow events supply crucial sand, sediment, and woody debris in support of the exemplary anadromous fish habitat found downstream in the Illinois River, also a wild and scenic river.
The broad diversity of soil types and vegetative communities of the creek provides potential habitat for a range of vertebrate and invertebrate species. The watershed is home to the threatened northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis), listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and the entire watershed is considered critical habitat for this elusive forest species.