OSU offers historic images of Willamette online


CORVALLIS - More than 300 historic photographs of the Willamette River basin, taken from 1934 to 1945 as part of a comprehensive fish habitat survey, have been compiled by Oregon State University and made available online.

The project is part of the University Libraries' commitment to making important research materials more widely available through digital technology, officials say.

The Willamette Basin Stream Survey Photo Collection offers researchers and interested members of the public a glimpse of a significant body of work by a largely unrecognized group of scientists.

The photos were part of a larger survey of the Columbia River basin, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Fisheries. That full survey covered more than 6,200 kilometers of the Columbia basin in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, and detailed conditions in nearly 400 streams that served as spawning and rearing habitat for chinook salmon.

Between 1948 and 1950, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published seven reports summarizing the data, and for some 40 years, those summaries served as the only real record of the massive undertaking.

In 1987, however, scientist James R. Sedell and other researchers in the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station on the OSU campus located the documents. Sedell and others have since made the survey available in digital form and compared it with more recent surveys.

Last year, Sedell donated the documents from the survey - including photographs, field notes, survey data and reports - to the University Libraries at OSU, where they are maintained in the University Archives.

"The images are important because they show us what the Willamette River looked like 60 years ago," said Larry Landis, the university archivist. "You can see how the river is similar, or different, depending on the location."

Wrote the researchers in one segment about the Willamette:

"Enters the Columbia River 101 miles above the mouth, and extends for approximately 189 miles to the confluence of the Coast and Middle Forks. Throughout most of its course the (Willamette) river is sluggish and the stream bed is composed of mud and silt. The detailed survey was started at the first good riffle, located about 7 miles below the mouth of the McKenzie River."

The photos may be viewed at: http://digitalcollections.library.oregonstate.edu/streamsurvey.