The McKenzie River Sub-basin is known for outstanding water quality and steady flows due to its unique hydrogeology. It is one of the last remaining strongholds for threatened Willamette River spring Chinook salmon and bull trout. McKenzie rainbow trout are a prized target for recreational fisheries and the businesses that depend on them. Many strong partnerships exist among local organizations, and the Sub-basin is a hub for innovative programs.
Despite these excellent features, the Sub-basin is showing signs of degradation in water quality and habitat quality, loss of riparian forest, and disconnection from its floodplain. These downward trends are largely a result of a variety of anthropogenic impacts including dam and hydroelectric project construction, rural and urban development pressures, and land-use practices. Conservation and restoration in the McKenzie River Sub-basin is essential to providing the foundation from which ecological uplift in the entire Willamette River Basin can occur.