Stephens Creek begins at a steep ridge south of Hillsdale and flows about two miles to the Willamette River just north of the Sellwood Bridge. Its drainage area, called the Stephens subwatershed, covers 754 acres of southwest Portland. The subwatershed is mostly residential neighborhoods but also includes the commercial areas around the Burlingame Fred Meyers store, part of the I-5 corridor, and the canyon that holds SW Taylors Ferry Road.
The mouth of Stephens Creek, a short stretch of the creek between SW Macadam and the Willamette River, provides important shelter for steelhead and salmon as they travel up or down the river. Some of the middle section flows through forested patches near Riverview Cemetery. The Stephens Creek Nature Park on SW Bertha Boulevard includes a wetland area. While the creek has suffered from decades of urban development and significant parts of it flow through buried pipes, these stretches of open stream offer valuable potential for improvement.
The single biggest issue for most urban watersheds is stormwater runoff, and Stephens is no exception. Roads, parking lots, roofs, and other hard, impervious surfaces concentrate and accelerate runoff. Urban runoff increases erosion, damages the stream channel, destroys habitat, and adds to the pollution load in the river. Reducing the impacts of stormwater runoff is the first step toward a healthy watershed.
Over the next few months Environmental Services will conduct a field assessment of the Stephens subwatershed. We’ll be looking at the urban landscape to find sites for stormwater retrofits. Retrofits are structural stormwater management measures for existing development designed to help improve watershed function. Most retrofits consist of landscape improvements that prevent runoff from reaching the creek too quickly or allow it to soak into the ground.