South Fork gets its water from the Clackamas River. The Clackamas watershed begins on the slopes of Olallie Butte, a high cascade volcano.The river flows 82.7 miles from its headwaters to its confluence with the Willamette River near Gladstone and Oregon City and is made up of 16 sub-watersheds.
The watershed drains more than 940 sq miles. More than half of the watershed’s length runs through forested areas over rugged terrain. The lower reaches flow through agricultural and densely populated areas.About 72% of the watershed is publicly owned, 3% is tribally owned, and 25% is privately owned.
The Clackamas watershed can roughly be divided in half, with nearly all of the upper watershed in the Mt. Hood National Forest and managed by the USFS.In contrast, most of the lower watershed is privately owned.The area in between the national forest and the lower watershed include parcels of land owned by private timber companies and the BLM.The estimated population within the watershed in 1995 was 63,702.
The Clackamas River is a drinking water source for over 200,000 people in Clackamas County and is targeted in the Regional Water Supply Plan as a source to meet future demand.There are five municipal surface water intakes on Clackamas which include the City of Estacada, Clackamas River Water, the combined operations for Oak Lodge Water District and Sunrise Water Authority, South Fork Water Board, and City of Lake Oswego.
The watershed also supports:
- Naturally spawning anadromous fish including steelhead, chinook, and coho salmon.
- Provides important habitat for many wildlife species.
- Supports recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and camping.
- PGE operates three hydroelectric dams on the Clackamas River mainstem.
- Portions of the River are also designated under Federal and State Wild and Scenic Waterways.
Key concerns in the Clackamas Basin include:
- Water quality
- Naturally spawning anadromous salmonids
- Land use (agricultural, timber harvesting and urban uses)
- Urban growth – increased growth in the watershed can have negative water quality impacts
Water supply – Water withdrawals must be balanced with maintaining sufficient instream flows to support fish and other beneficial uses.
- Goals for the Clackamas River
- Maintain and enhance water quality of the Clackamas River watershed to meet and surpass state water-quality standards.
- Maintain and improve habitat for fish native to the Northwest such as Salmon, Trout, and Steelhead in the Clackamas River watershed.
- Maintain sufficient flows to support instream beneficial uses.
- Protect and enhance natural areas associated with river and stream habitat.