Crystal Springs Creek Restoration

Crystal Springs Creek is a major tributary to Johnson Creek and is the first stream to earn the Salmon Sanctuary designation.
Map shows a creek with orange circles noting places where culverts were replaced along Crystal Springs Creek

Crystal Springs Creek is a tributary of lower Johnson Creek in Southeast Portland. The creek originates from springs near Reed College and the Eastmoreland Golf Course, an area that was once primarily marshy wetlands. Before development, the wetlands retained excess water from flood events and provided important rearing and refuge habitat for salmon, and foraging and nesting sites for beavers, birds, turtles, frogs, and other wildlife. 

Crystal Springs is spring fed, which keeps water temperatures cool and stream flow uniform throughout the year. This adds cool water to Johnson Creek in the summer when stream flow can be low and warm. Fish and amphibians thrive in cool water. Crystal Springs is home to coho and Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. All three species are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and Crystal Springs is designated as critical habitat. The creek is also home to many other species, including Pacific lamprey, freshwater mussels, beaver, and river otter.

Due to the creek's importance, Environmental Services has been working with several partners to enhance creek conditions to improve water quality, reduce the risk of flooding, and better support native fish and wildlife. Thanks to our more than 20 partners, nearly half the length of the creek has been restored through a series of eight separate projects. One project is still in progress. 

Culvert replacement removed barriers and restoration work improved habitat

Two photos. One shows a creek flowing through a narrow opening under a road. The other shows the same creek flowing under a bridge-like structure
Example of old culvert that blocked fish passage replaced by a fish-friendly culvert on SE Umatilla Street.

Several culverts carry the creek under roads, but some blocked fish from swimming upstream to reach spawning and rearing habitat. Environmental Services and several of our partners worked to replace nine culverts, improve water quality, and restore habitat to make nearly three miles of prime habitat accessible to salmon and steelhead. 

Restoration along the length of the creek, including at Westmoreland Park, has added large logs, root wads, and boulders to slow water and create pools for fish. Native plants along the stream prevent erosion, keep the water cool, and become food for fish and other creatures.

Current work at Crystal Springs Lake

Currently, we are working with Portland Parks & Recreation to design a project to improve habitat for salmon and other native fish at Crystal Springs Lake. Learn more about this project.

Designated a Salmon Sanctuary

In 2017, Crystal Springs Creek was the first stream to be named a salmon sanctuary in Portland.

Our partners

Reed College began restoring Reed Canyon in 1999 by installing a fish ladder to connect Crystal Springs Creek's lower spawning beds to the upper rearing pond. Today, many groups, agencies, and organizations are working to restore the creek’s habitat. Others that have contributed resources to the creek’s restoration include:

  • Metro
  • Johnson Creek Watershed Council
  • East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Audubon Society of Portland
  • Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • Portland Bureau of Transportation
  • Portland Parks & Recreation