Watershed Facts

We’re amazed at the wonders of our watershed and want to share some watershed facts with you.

  • The main stem McKenzie River is about 90 miles long and the total area of the watershed is about 1,300 square miles. The source of the main stem is near Clear Lake in the Cascade Mountains.
  • The unique geology of the High Cascades in the watershed provides a constant supply of clear, cold water. Highly porous and fractured volcanic rock allows snow and rain runoff to filter down and flow far beneath the surface. The mean residence time of water in this groundwater system is about 5 to 10 years. The water emerges as springs that contribute substantially to the summer flows in the McKenzie River.
  • The McKenzie River and its watershed are the source of drinking water, both in the form of surface and ground water, to approximately 200,000 area residents.
  • The McKenzie River is the only tributary in the Upper Willamette Basin to sustain any significant level of natural production of spring Chinook salmon, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The watershed provides habitat for one of the last remaining native bull trout populations, also listed as threatened.
  • There are six dams and one diversion providing flood control, hydroelectric power, and recreation, but which also have undesirable impacts on fish.
  • Thirteen miles of the McKenzie River are under federal “Wild and Scenic” protection, and approximately 16 miles of the river are designated as “Oregon Scenic Waterway.”
  • Approximately 34,000 acres of the McKenzie Watershed is in agricultural use, 9,000 acres is in residential use and 1,000 acres is in industrial use. The majority of the remaining 800,000 acres is in forest uses, including private and public land and wilderness areas.