Between 2011 and 2017 Greenbelt Land Trust has acquired 404 acres through conservation easements at Harkens Lake, located north of Monroe along the Willamette River. The property is located within a priority conservation area for riparian and wetland habitats identified in the Oregon Conservation Strategy and the Willamette Basin Planning Atlas. Harkens Lake is a historically dynamic floodplain where the main channel has changed course multiple times since Euro-American settlement. Pre-settlement habitats were predominantly bottomland hardwood forest, but would have included a complex of forest, back channels, sloughs and recently deposited gravel bars. Channel straightening and construction of revetments have resulted in a much simplified river channel.
Harkens Lake has important conservation value for flood-water storage, wetland and riparian habitats and extensive bottomland hardwood forests. Side-channel and wetland areas provide cold water refuge and critical life history functions for listed or species of conservation concern, including Chinook salmon, cutthroat trout, Oregon chub, Pacific lamprey, western pond turtle, and red-legged frog.
The importance of Harkens Lake is enhanced by its location within an area of an additional 700 acres of public and private conservation lands, including Anderson County Park and Irish Bend. These lands include approximately 2 river miles of the mainstem Willamette River.This property provides an outstanding opportunity to restore floodplain functioning and connectivity with the Willamette River on a relatively large scale, while restoring rare and declining Willamette Valley habitats including bottomland hardwood forest, oak savanna, prairie, and aquatic habitats.
The conservation of Harkens Lake is made possible through a strong partnership with landowners Gary, Jenny and Steve Horning, and Mark and Sherie Adams, a collaboration that will continue as the partners prepare to restore the property’s floodplain forests and riparian areas to their historic conditions. Funding for the easement acquisition was provided by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and Bonneville Power Administration in partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Meyer Memorial Trust.
The Management Plan for Harkens Lake seeks to create a complex and dynamic mosaic of aquatic, riparian, and upland habitats that will support native fish and wildlife, including several special status species. Through ongoing management activities restored upland and riparian areas will provide habitats suitable for special status plant species, and a diversity of native plants and pollinators. With a more dynamic connection between the floodplain and the river, habitats will be more frequently disturbed and rearranged, more closely resembling pre-settlement conditions. New channels may be carved out and new sediments will be deposited resulting in greater channel complexity. While a full return to pre-settlement conditions is not possible because of dam construction, human development, river channelization and bank hardening, significant restoration of habitats and ecosystem functions can still be attained within these constraints.
Harkens Lake is accessible through GLT-led tours and events only at this time