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The 1.3-mile road to the dam, once often tougher to drive than reeling in a steelhead with light tackle, is dramatically better this spring.
Gravel and a culvert have been added to the road, which starts at the main entry point to Thief Valley Reservoir. Not surprisingly, the dam area at Thief Valley is now luring in schools of anglers.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in traffic,’’ said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Nadine Craft.
Thief Valley Reservoir is often completely drained by the end of the summer for irrigation purposes.
The road was once hard to drive because it was often muddy and Cusick Creek crossed it. The creek meant that only people with larger cars and trucks or ATVs could cross. Today any driver can cross thanks to the addition of the culvert.
The road’s culvert and gravel were all put in through a project funded by ODFW, Union County, the Bureau of Reclamation and a private donor.
The road was improved to help anglers reach the Thief Valley Dam area and to make it easier for the ODFW to stock trout at the reservoir each fall, Craft said. The ODFW began stocking trout at Thief Valley between late October and early November in 2008. It did so because at the end of many summers almost all of the trout at Thief Valley are gone. The reason is the reservoir, open for fishing year-round, is often drawn down completely for irrigation purposes by early September.
This Northeast Oregon fisherman had a successful day angling near the dam of Thief Valley Reservoir.
By mid-fall the reservoir again has water but has no fish (during full drawn down years) except for the few who swam in from the Powder Valley. The ODFW responded to this problem by beginning a fall stocking program. It did so because this gives the fish the opportunity to grow over the winter, improving the spring fishery.
For the fall stocking program to continue the road to the dam needed to be improved.
NADINE CRAFT photos Gravel has been added to the entire portion of the 1.3-mile road from the entrance to Thief Valley Reservoir to its dam.
The reason is the water at the Thief Valley entry area does not reach its concrete ramp in the fall, Craft said. The heavy stocking truck must be driven to the dam instead.
The truck could have easily gotten stuck since the road, before it was improved, was filled with potholes and was quite slick when wet.
The ODFW fish liberation truck brings 32,000 six-inch trout to Thief Valley Reservoir in the fall and 30,000 three-to-four-inch trout in the spring. The six-inch trout stocked in the fall grow grow about three inches during the winter.