Jump to our native plant sales.

Upland Prairie and Savanna

Upland prairies are among the most threatened ecosystems in Oregon. In the past, these open grasslands occurred across the Willamette Valley and were maintained by seasonal fires that Native Americans set. They are vegetated by perennial grasses and annual or perennial herbaceous flowering plants. When an upland prairie contains a few widely spaced, open grown Oregon white oaks, Douglas-fir, or ponderosa pines per acre, it is called a savanna. Upland prairies and savanna typically occur on sloped, well-drained soils near the valley bottom and into the foothills of the Cascades and Coast Range.

McDonald Forest outside Corvallis © C. Durbecq
McDonald Forest outside Corvallis © C. Durbecq

Forests

Bottomland forests, riparian forests, oak woodlands, and mixed hardwood-conifer forests all occur in Benton County. They differ by species composition and landscape position. Healthy forests have overstory, understory, shrubs, and herbaceous plant layers. Learn more about each type of forest habitat:

    Willamette River © C. Durbecq
    Willamette River © C. Durbecq

    Riparian Areas

    Riparian areas are defined by NRCS as ecosystems that occur along waterways and water bodies. They serve as the transition between aquatic and terrestrial zones. Properly managed riparian areas provide property owners and the environment with numerous benefits. For example, plant roots provide the bank with increased stability and minimize sediment runoff. Riparian buffers should be at least 25 to 100 feet wide depending on surrounding land uses. A healthy riparian area is highly vegetated with native shrubs and trees, shades the waterway, and contains an abundance of woody and organic debris.

    Healthy Riparian Areas…

    • Improve water quality
    • Reduce flooding
    • Decrease erosion
    • Protect fish habitat
    • Provide nutrients
    • Enhance wildlife habitat
    floodplain diagram including floodway and flood fringes
    floodplain diagram including floodway and flood fringes

    Floodplains

    Flooding is a natural stream process. A floodplain is the nutrient-rich land that is inundated with water during floods. These areas allow flood waters to spread out and slow down, reducing their erosive force. This process encourages aquifer recharge as water seeps into the soil. A permit is required for all development in the 100-year floodplain.

    wetlands
    wetlands

    Wetlands

    Wetlands are important Willamette Valley habitats that provide shelter and breeding areas for thousands of species. They reduce flooding by storing water and improve water quality through their filtering and cleansing abilities. Wetlands are characterized by their hydrology, hydric soils and water-tolerant vegetation. Wetlands used to cover much of the valley floor, but many acres have since been drained for agriculture or development. Because of their importance and rarity, they are protected. Before making changes to your property, contact Benton SWCD to determine if you have hydric soils. If hydric soils are present, check with Department of State Lands to see if you have a wetland. Wetlands are considered waters of the state. Projects that will add or remove 50+ cubic yards of soil require permits.

    Forests

    Bottomland forests, riparian forests, oak woodlands, and mixed hardwood-conifer forests all occur in Benton County. They differ by species composition and landscape position. Learn more about each type of forest habitat:

    Riparian Planting © D. Schmitz
    Newly planted trees and fence installation along the Luckiamute River.

    Riparian Areas

    Riparian areas are defined by NRCS as ecosystems that occur along waterways and water bodies. They serve as the transition between aquatic and terrestrial zones. Properly managed riparian areas provide property owners and the environment with numerous benefits. For example, plant roots provide the bank with increased stability and minimize sediment runoff. Riparian buffers should be at least 25 to 100 feet wide depending on surrounding land uses. A healthy riparian area is highly vegetated with native shrubs and trees, shades the waterway, and contains an abundance of woody and organic debris.

    Healthy Riparian Areas… 

    • Improve water quality. 
    • Reduce flooding. 
    • Decrease erosion. 
    • Protect fish habitat. 
    • Provide nutrients. 
    • Enhance wildlife habitat.

    Program Contacts

    Donna Schmitz
    Donna Schmitz
    Resource Conservationist II
    541-753-7208 ext. 201
    Email
    Michael Ahr
    Michael Ahr
    Natural Resource Conservation Program Manager
    541-753-7208 ext. 202
    Email

    Related Blog Posts

    canoes on the Willamette
    State of the Willamette
    Laura Brown | September 9, 2021

    A compilation of presentations and resources from the 2020 State of the Willamette workshop for Willamette Basin restoration partners to share perspectives on the current state of river restoration practice, science, funding, and ways to improve restoration outcomes from local to regional scales.

    Prairie Soils for Sustainable Restoration
    Teresa Matteson | April 8, 2021

    Can information from the soil explain why some prairie restoration efforts are more successful than others? In 2016, the Prairie Soils for Sustainable Restoration project set out to find the answer, thanks to funding from Oregon Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Lessons with George Ice
    Teresa Matteson | February 19, 2021

    Diverse natural landscapes managed by landowners who understand and appreciate the importance of ecosystem services are fundamental to what makes Benton County a mighty fine place to live and work. One such landowner is George Ice, past BSWCD Chair. For 35 years, George worked as a research forest hydrologist with the National Council for Air

    Related Resources

    For additional information, we recommend:
    • Oak Creek Tour 2009

      Oak Creek Tour 2009: Forest, Farms, and Football. Explore Oak Creek.
      Discover how forests, farms and football affect the water quality and stream dynamics of Oak Creek. Learn how past and present management practices along the Creek continue to transform the landscape.

    • Dixon Crk Tour 2013 Share The Stream

      Dixon Creek Tour: Share the Stream. Discover Dixon Creek. Visit five fascinating locations to see examples of low impact design that help keep the creek beautiful and healthy for us and our fish and wildlife neighbors as the landscape becomes increasingly urbanized.

    • Dixon Creek Tour 2008

      Dixon Creek Tour 2008: Get acquainted with Dixon Creek Watershed. Discover wild places in the city, urban influences on the creek, and how to become a steward.

    • Newton Creek Tour Brochure

      Newton Creek Tour. Visit five fascinating locations and learn how humans and wildlife have used and altered the landscape. Learn more about the history, ecology, and importance of Newton Creek to the Philomath community.

    • Dunawi Creek Tour Brochure 2010

      Blackberry Jones and the Invaders of Dunawi Creek: Explore Dunawi Creek with this self-guided creek tour brochure.
      Discover wild places in the city, urban influences on the creek and how to keep the creek beautiful and healthy.

    Copyright ©2013- 2021 Benton Soil & Water Conservation District. All rights reserved.