Rich Stewart was five years old when he first visited his Aunt Barb and Uncle Pete’s dairy farm along the Deschutes River in 1946. It was the beginning of countless visits to the farm that would become his second home and shape the person he would become.
Memories of the farm stayed with him: fishing by moonlight for cutthroat trout as the smell of his Uncle Pete’s cigar smoke wafted through the air; chasing mice through the milk barn with help from the wire-haired terriers; checking the crawdad traps and swimming in the river after a long day of haying.
Forty years after that first visit, the effects of surrounding population growth were starting to show on the farm. Rich noticed that there were fewer crawfish, fewer nighthawks in the summer evenings, and the meadow larks were disappearing. Uncle Pete lamented that eventually the entire area would be covered by houses.
Then 44 acres adjacent to the farm came up for sale. Rich and his wife Sharon saw it as an opportunity to protect the quality of life on the farm, so they purchased it and donated a conservation easement to Capitol Land Trust (CLT) in 1994. The property is full of mature forest, and beavers, skunks, coyotes, and other wildlife call it home.
This was the first of three adjacent conservation projects along the Deschutes River that the Stewarts helped bring to fruition. The second came in 2012 with CLT’s purchase of the Stewart-Deschutes Preserve and the third just occurred in September with the acquisition of the Stewart Oxbow Preserve. Together, the three conserved lands cover 136 acres along 1.5 miles of the river.
What makes this newest acquisition special is that it has a 1,100 foot oxbow on it. An oxbow is a side channel that separates from the river and then joins it again. Off-channel habitat along the Deschutes River is scarce. When the river is experiencing high flow, this oxbow provides fish a place to rest in slower waters.
Unfortunately, Rich passed away earlier this year before the Stewart Oxbow Preserve acquisition was completed. As we announce this latest conservation success, we’d like to honor Rich for spearheading conservation along this section of the Deschutes River. We’re grateful for his and Sharon’s vision and commitment and hope to continue to build on their legacy.
Thank you to the following partners:
- Rich & Sharon Stewart
- Dan & Adrienne Wasserman
- The Estate of Michael Wellander
- Jeff Wellander
- Margot Marsh
- ADESA LLC
- Recreation & Conservation Office – Salmon Recovery Funding Board