The Agricultural Reach of Oak Creek drains the croplands and research farm facilities of OSU. The Department of Animal Science manages these agricultural lands. Pastures are used for seasonal grazing and production of hay and other forage crops. Irrigation water is pumped from Oak Creek.
Scientists and managers in the Departments of Animal Science, Fisheries & Wildlife, Forest Engineering, and Bioresource Engineering are establishing conservation practices in the Agricultural Reach, such as riparian fencing and plantings, that will improve stream, wetland and riparian conditions while assuring agricultural production objectives are met.
The Agricultural Reach offers students an outdoor laboratory for academic studies. OSU students from Animal Sciences, Fisheries & Wildlife, Soil Science, Zoology, and Forestry use Oak Creek to study the physical, biological and social processes that occur in watersheds.
The bike path that bisects the agricultural lands of OSU provides a close-up view of dairy operations and research applications that focus on conservation and restoration of important watershed processes.
Restoring Wetlands: Upstream of the covered bridge, between the bike path and Oak Creek, you will ﬁnd
the results of a study to design inexpensive methods to restore wetlands in agricultural landscapes. With only minor excavation of the pasture to better retain winter rainwater, a wetland was reborn. Native plants from the site's seed bank have sprouted and replaced pasture grasses. Ducks, geese, frogs, great blue herons, and red-winged blackbirds are common users of the restored wetland.
Subsurface drainage: In the spring of 2000, high levels of E. coli bacteria were detected in Oak Creek. To investigate the source of this contamination, one graduate student looked to the ﬁeld where liquid manure is used for irrigation. The ﬁeld southeast of the dairy had subsurface drainage installed decades ago. These "drain tile" networks are designed to remove water from the soil proﬁle allowing land managers earlier access to ﬁelds. Since these systems accelerate transport of water to Oak Creek, knowing their location is important.
Using a cesium magnetometer, researchers were able to map the location of drain tile networks. Tracers were then applied to the soil surface and samples taken from outflows. The results showed that both natural drainage features (cracks, worm holes, root channels, mammal burrows) and drain tiles functioned together to transport surface water.
The Agricultural Reach of Oak Creek is home to many species of ﬁsh including Chinook salmon, cutthroat trout, redside shiners (shown below), Paciﬁc lamprey, western brook lamprey, speckled dace, threespined stickelback, and reticulate and torrent sculpins. Paciﬁc tree frogs, garter snakes, and salamanders also inhabit the Reach and its wetlands.
Mammals of the Reach include: blacktail deer, raccoons, oppossums, nutria, squirrels, foxes, coyotes, deer mice, voles, and of course, beavers.
Birds that can be found in the Reach include: mallard and wood ducks, herons, red-winged blackbirds, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, ﬂickers, woodpeckers, great horned owls, and seasonal migrants such as yellow Warblers.