Balm Creek Reservoir (Baker)

Reachcode: 17050203006368 | Area: 72.8 acres | Shoreline: 2.0 mi | View on Interactive Map

(From Atlas of Oregon Lakes, Johnson et al. 1985).  Balm Creek Reservoir is a small irrigation impoundment, formed by the damming of Balm Creek in about 1930. Balm Creek is a tributary of the Powder River. The small drainage basin is almost entirely forested land within the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Shoreline ownership is about one-half federal and one-half private. When full, the reservoir covers a surface area of about 112 acres with a maximum depth of 60 feet. According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are plans by a local irrigation district to enlarge the reservoir to a surface area at full pool of 256 acres and a minimum pool of about 70 acres. The Forest Service estimates that annual recreation visitor-days will then increase to about 15,000. There would then be a need to develop facilities for camping and picnicking; there are no such facilities at present. However, the reservoir does offer some good angling for rainbow trout and is fairly popular despite its relative isolation. Fishing is generally good until mid-summer when the water level drops because of withdrawals for irrigation downstream. Boats can be used and trolling is a popular method for anglers. 

The reservoir site was not completely logged off before the dam was built so there are snags in the shallow areas around the perimeter; these snags contribute organic matter and woody debris to the water. The reservoir is protected from the wind and the water column develops a pronounced thermal stratification in the summer. The water surface is fairly warm and there is some swimming near an unofficial campground at the northeastern end of the reservoir. Oxygen is frequently depleted in the hypolimnion, reflecting the oxidation of organic material in the water. The concentration of phosphorus is moderate and supports occasional blooms of phytoplankton, including blue-green algae. Water transparency is limited (7.9 feet; 2.4 meters) because of the phytoplankton growth. Balm Creek Reservoir is classified at the lower end of eutrophy. 


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