Oregon's Major Basins

Fresh water is critical to Oregon’s economy and for Oregon’s quality of life. Most Oregonians understand this, and as a result list having access to abundant clean water and the resources it provides as one of their most important natural resources concerns. High quality environmental monitoring data provides a foundation for making important decisions that impact Oregon’s water availability, water quality and beneficial uses. Due to the extreme variation in the climate, geography, ecosystems, economy, and communities, the issues related to water use, threats, and local protection or restoration needs and tools are quite different in the different parts of the state.

For a Year of Water, we aim to look at Oregon’s public universities and community colleges contributions to understanding Oregon’s as it largely corresponds to the major river basins in the state.

These major basins are generally an aggregation of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board’s Reporting Basins – sub-basins (8 digit HUCs). The Klamath includes the Klamath Basin Watersheds, while the Lakes Basins includes all the watersheds in Oregon that have no output to the ocean. The Snake includes all of the watersheds that drain into the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam, the only part of Oregon’s Columbia River Basin with no anadromous fish. Alternatively, the Powder River Sub-Basin could be included in Northeastern Oregon and the rest of the Snake merged into the Lakes Basins, which would reduce the number of major basins, and would keep adjacent communities with similar economies together. But this also merges sub-basins with very different aquatic types and issues, so were split as shown.

The North Coast and the Lower Columbia coastal watersheds are relatively small, and could be combined with the Southwest Oregon watersheds (the Rogue and Umpqua), but these are large enough, and have sufficiently different climate, geology and communities that it made more sense to the Oregon Stream Team to separate them. And the isolated small sub-basins in the Lower and Middle Columbia sub-basins were combined into their closed major basin.

The North Coast Basin includes the coastal portion in Oregon of the Lower Columbia (the Lower Columbia sub-basin and the Lower Columbia-Clatskanie). It also includes the entire North Coast Basin of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, which includes the following HUCs: Necanicum, Nehalem, Wilson-Trask-Nestucca, Siletz-Yaquina, Alsea, Siuslaw, and Siltcoos Sub-Basins.

The Willamette Basin includes the entire watershed of the Willamette, along with the Sandy River Sub-Basin portion of the Lower Columbia Basin. Willamette Basin HUCs include the Coast Fork Willamette, Middle Fork Willamette, McKenzie, Upper Willamette, South Santiam, North Santiam, Middle Willamette, Molalla-Pudding, Yamhill, Tualatin, Clackamas, and Lower Willamette.

This Southwestern Oregon Basins is dominated by the Umpqua and Rogue River basins, but also includes the many smaller sub-basins of the Oregon Plan South Coast reporting basin. The Rogue sub-basins include: Upper Rogue, Middle Rogue, Applegate, Illinois, and Lower Rogue. The Umpqua includes the North Umpqua, South Umpqua, and Umpqua. The Coastal HUCs include the Chetco, Coos, Coquille, Sixes, and Smith River). It also includes the very small (just over 3,000-acre) part of the Lower Klamath Sub-basin located in southern Josephine County along the California border near Bolan Lake.

The Klamath Basin includes the entire Klamath Basin, aside from small area in Josephine County included in the southwestern Oregon area. HUCs include the Williamson, Sprague, Upper Klamath Lake, Lost River and Upper Klamath Sub-basins.

This Deschutes Basin includes the entire Deschutes basin plus the Middle Columbia – Hood Sub-Basin. HUCs include the Little Deschutes, Upper Deschutes, Lower Deschutes, Lower Crooked, Upper Crooked, South Fork Beaver Creek, and Trout Creek.

The Northeast Oregon Basin includes the four John Day Sub-basins (Upper John Day, Middle Fork John Day, North Fork John Day, and Lower John Day, along with the Umatilla, the Willow Creek, Middle Columbia – Lake Wallula, and Walla-Walla Sub-Basins in north-central Oregon. It also includes the three Grande Ronde sub-basins (Upper Grande Ronde, Lower Grande Ronde, and Wallowa River), and the Lower Snake-Asotin and Imnaha sub-basins in extreme northeastern Oregon.

The Snake Basin includes all of the watersheds in Oregon that drain into the Snake River that are found upstream from the Snake River Dam, which has stopped all fish passage to these basins. It includes the Powder River basin, the adjacent Brownlee Reservoir and Hells Canyon sub-basins. To the south, it includes the smaller Burnt River sub-basin. In Malheur County, it includes two large basins, the Malheur and Owyhee Rivers that drain into the Snake River at the Idaho border. The Malheur Basin includes the Upper Malheur, Lower Malheur, Bully Creek, and Willow Creek Sub-basins. The Owyhee is composed of the East Little Owyhee, a very small part of the South Fork Owyhee, the Middle Owyhee, Crooked-Rattlesnake, Jordan, Middle Snake – Succor Creek, and the Lower Owyhee. A small portion of the Middle Snake-Payette also occurs in this area.

The Lakes Basins’ watersheds are actually part of three basins, but in none of these watersheds does water find its way to the Ocean. Along the Nevada border, there are small parts of three basins that sneak into the state. The Upper Quinn and Thousand-Virgin Sub- basins are found near the Idaho Boarder, part of the larger Black Rock Desert Watershed in Nevada. At the west end of this monitoring strategy area is the Goose Lake Sub-Watershed, with the streams in Oregon draining into Goose Lake, split between Oregon and California, and part of California’s closed lakes system. The remainder are part of the Oregon Lakes Basin: Alvord Lake, Warner Lakes, Donner und Blitzen, Harney-Malheur Lakes, Silvies, Silver, Lake Abert, and Summer Lake Sub-basins, each of which have streams running into a central lake.