Don’t let Johnson Creek’s short course fool you, this river runs deep in our area’s history and landscape. In the relatively short span of 25 miles, this water winds its way down from the foothills of the Cascades through our backyards on its path to the Willamette, the Columbia, then the great expanse beyond. A constant connection from the highs to the lows, uniting country and town from rural to suburban to urban.
Through rill and rapid, this ribbon of life was once fishing and hunting ground for the Chinook tribes that dwelt here long before the European settlers came. After their arrival, they began clearing the rich forest surrounding the creek and developing long-standing agriculture and industry. Johnson Creek takes its name from one of the settlers, a man who used the runnel to power his eponymous sawmill. The mill faded into history, but the name remains.
In the 2oth century, the creek faced challenges to its health and course. As residential development increased and encroached, the stream was made to suit the purposes of those living on its banks. The river’s run was altered and straightened; it was lined with non-porous stones and materials to enact flood-control measures which only increased the severity of the inevitable deluges. In the last 30-40 years, significant strides have been made to return the creek to a more natural state and repairing its riparian zones. To learn more about what you can do to preserve and protect this feature, check out the Johnson Creek Watershed Council.