Streamside – Living along the water

BC at Lazy cropped

When you live next to a river or creek, you know the beauty and value that it provides. But it’s more than just a pretty spot, your property is part of a larger ecosystem of plants, animals, land and water. These ecosystems along stream or riverbanks are called riparian zones. Rivers and streams rely on riparian zones as buffers to absorb floodwaters, filter pollutants from runoff, provide critical shade to cool waters, provide wildlife habitat, and other benefits. However, as more land is developed, we are losing these protective areas and all of their benefits. When riparian areas are lost, more pollution reaches rivers and streams, habitat is diminished, and water temperature increases. These are big problems for salmon (who love cold water) and other species. That’s why balancing your needs with the needs of the larger ecosystem is what streamside landscaping is all about, and a key to becoming Stream Smart! The following practices will help you steward those landscapes while keeping the fish in mind:

House on stream

  • Reduce your use of chemicals as much as possible and try organic techniques, because anything you apply to a garden, pasture or parking lot could up in our waterways. For tips on how to do this visit: Stream Smart Fertilizers, Pesticides & Herbicides
  • For the best natural fertilizer, amend your garden soil, or top dress your lawn with nutrient–rich compost, or compost tea, which make grass, flowers, shrubs and trees healthier with real plant food instead of artificial chemicals. Our Stream Smart Composting makes sense page provides all details on using compost.
  • Right plant, right place! Choose appropriate native plants and trees that are tolerant of poor drainage, flooding, and drought- all commonplace along streams. Plant shade producing native shrubs and trees to keep streams cool for fish. Our Stream Smart Go Native or Urban Trees pages provide resource for selecting appropriate species.
  • For the easiest landscape to care for, replace ornamentals and lawns with a “xeriscape” or “water-wise” garden. They take much less work and water, and require no pesticides or fertilizers. Our Stream Smart Watering to protect streams page provides guidance.
  • If you have livestock do not let pasture grass grow right to the stream. Fence animals away from the water to prevent stream contamination from manure and fertilizers, then plant appropriate native shrubs and trees for shade and habitat. Visit our Stream Smart Agriculture page for more information.


Good OSU Extension resources on Streamside Gardening and Landscaping
Medford Water Conservation Information
Ashland Conservation Information
Taking Care of Streams in Jackson County
Stream & Wetland Enhancement Guide

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