Once a year a dozen or so staff and volunteers from North Coast Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon office get together for a weekend of weed-pulling at their nearly neighboring preserves on the lower Columbia River: Blind Slough Swamp Preserve (TNC) and Wolf Bay Habitat Reserve (NCLC). This August they upped the ante, adding a day of botanizing by canoe with members of the Filipendula Chapter of the Native Plant Society and a day of planting native species in nearby John Day Marsh Habitat Reserve—also via canoe. And Swampathon 2018 was born.
Sounds like a party, but one volunteer characterized her day of pulling well-established loosestrife in Wolf Bay her gnarliest stewardship gig to date. Swampathon was actually the Year One centerpiece of a two-year marsh restoration project NCLC is conducting in both Wolf Bay and John Day Marsh habitat reserves on the lower Columbia, funded in part by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. The idea was to spend not just a day or two but the better part of a month making a serious dent in the invasive purple loosestrife found widely in the marshes here. (OWEB funding allowed NCLC to give its summer stewardship interns an extra month of work in the marsh.) Loosestrife edges out native vegetation that wildlife needs, and its dense root systems can build up the level of soil and utterly change the character of the marsh. The project also targeted yellow flag iris and English ivy, two other invasive plants found along the lower Columbia. The Swampathon team not only removed undesirable plants but planted coastal marsh natives such as red osier dogwood, wapato, and Henderson’s checkermallow.
Here is a glimpse of Swampathon 2018. You’ll find more information and photos in an article titled “Purple Reign” that ran in the Daily Astorian. Thanks to the extremely hardworking volunteers who paddled canoes, slid along slippery mudbanks, and sloshed through tidal marshes to dig, hack, and haul weeds as well as transporting and planting hundreds of native plants now growing in John Day Marsh Habitat Reserve. Our interns finished out the month with more marsh planting and weeding, and we’ll be back in the spring to plant more wapato, tule and other natives at Wolf Bay.