East Fork Hood River
The East Fork of the Hood River flows out of the Newton-Clark Glacier on the south face of Mt. Hood in the Cascade Range of Oregon. After flowing for about 2.5 miles toward the southeast, the river makes a sweeping turn to the north. Oregon State Highway 35 hugs the river after this turn. The 13.5-mile segment of the river from Highway 35 (just east of Sahalie Falls) to the Mt. Hood National Forest boundary is administered as a recreational river.
The river flows through a relatively broad valley bottom made up of glacial outwash before flowing into a narrower steep-sided canyon containing a number of cliffs. Due to the nature of the outwash, there are numerous springs and small tributaries that flow into the river.
March 30, 2009. From Oregon State Highway 35 to the Mt. Hood National Forest boundary.
In the upper corridor, the river and its immediate environment provide an important riparian habitat in quantities greater than those usually found along other rivers throughout the region. This habitat is generally high in quality though some past management practices have lowered quality in specific locations. Important riparian habitat is very limited in the lower corridor due to canyon narrowness and the presence of State Highway 35 and associated structures and is often heavily impacted by debris flow in the upper corridor. The debris flows from Pollalie, Newton, and Clark Creeks removed or smothered riparian vegetation. This area now provides what is considered a locally important opportunity to observe early successional stages of riparian habitat. Throughout the river corridor, there are numerous wetlands, streams, and side channels that support diverse plant communities, some within late-seral forest habitat suitable for a variety of rare special status species.
In the lower-mid river corridor, basalt rock outcrops provide high-quality habitat for violet suksdorfia (Sukksdorfia violacea). Violet suksdorfia is a Forest Service Region 6 sensitive plant and is also listed by the Oregon Natural Heritage Program as threatened and critically imperiled because of extreme rarity. The species is a disjunct endemic known to only grow in Oregon, a few populations in Washington, and a few unverified populations at the western edges of Idaho and Montana. In Oregon, there are two known populations, one site in the Wallowa mountains and the largest (and southernmost) population grows in the moist shaded cracks of columnar basalt and rock outcrops in the lower-mid river corridor. Similar suitable habitat is present throughout the river corridor and is extremely important for the dispersal and viability of the species at the peripheral edge of its range.
In winter, the upper portion of the river segment receives heavy Nordic ski use since the glacial outwash provides excellent terrain for ski trail development. The most popular groomed Nordic ski trail system on Mt. Hood National Forest is present in the river corridor. A new shelter outside the corridor has caused increased use of this system, and the use continues to grow. There are regional Nordic skiing competitive events and races on the groomed trails. The ungroomed Nordic system receives heavy use because the trails north of the highway have been destroyed by floods or debris flows. The Nordic ski use is non-river related but occurs within the river corridor at some locations.
A summer hiking trail provides access to the river for part of the segment. This trail provides opportunities to view substantial river activities (e.g., flooding, debris flows, and deposition). Some interpretation of the on-going glacial processes is provided at Tamanawas Trailhead, which is the most popular trail on the Hood River Ranger District. Two campgrounds next to the river receive moderate use, primarily from local users with some campers coming from other places within the region. One of the few rock-climbing areas on Mt. Hood National Forest exist within the corridor. Easy to extremely difficult are present in the columnar basalt cliffs.
Fishing is one of the primary recreational activities along the river, especially where access to the river is easier. Steelhead and coho salmon are the primary anadromous species present. Rainbow trout are stocked in the river to help meet the heavy fishing pressure.
The area within the corridor, especially in the upper portion, provides very important habitat of high quality which meet the needs of big and small game. The area provides critical elk calving and deer fawning habitat and is part of a seasonal migration route for big game. The mid elevations of the corridor consist of suitable nesting habitat for the northern spotted owl, a federally listed threatened species, and includes portions of two historic home ranges and two one-hundred acre late successional reserves. Past timber harvest has fragmented suitable habitat in the remainder of the corridor for this species. Harvest units do provide good habitat diversity for big game species. Within the lower portion of the segment, important habitat is very limited due to the steepness of the slopes within the canyon. While wildlife values are considered low in the lower portion of the corridor, the importance of the mid and upper sections for wildlife more than offsets that.