What the past tells us

These two photos show the same view of the Owyhee River, one from the early 1900s showing a stream clear of trees and brush, and a more recent show where the river is lined with trees.

ADRIAN — Much of the lower Owyhee River is lined with trees which can clog up the channel, but early explorers of the area found no trees along the banks, with the exception of small willows. The same can be said about some stretches of the Malheur River and the Snake River as they flow through the valley.

Old photos show the riparian areas along the streams devoid of trees, sparking the interest of Dr. Clint Shock, superintendent of the Malheur Experiment Station, who has been looking into the historical record and what may have caused changes. He points to more controlled flows in the rivers which resulted from the construction of dams, reducing the power of flows which may in the past have uprooted trees that had grown or started to grow.

These issues are becoming important as people debate what the rivers should look like now and how they should function in light of federal water quality standards. More photos and historical comments can be found in today’s Valley Life section, starting on page C1.

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