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Johnson Creek

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Johnson Creek is a 25-mile tributary of the Willamette River in the Portland metropolitan area of the U.S. state of Oregon. Part of the drainage basin of the Columbia River, its catchment consists of 54 square miles of mostly urban land occupied by about 180,000 people as of 2012. Passing through the cities of Gresham, Portland, and Milwaukie, the creek flows generally west from the foothills of the Cascade Range through sediments deposited by glacial floods on a substrate of basalt. Though polluted, it is free-flowing along its main stem and provides habitat for salmon and other migrating fish.
Prior to European settlement, the watershed was heavily forested and was used by Native Americans of the Chinook band for fishing and hunting. In the 19th century, white settlers cleared much of the land for farming, and the stream is named for one of these newcomers, William Johnson, who in 1846 built a water-powered sawmill along the creek. By the early 20th century, a rail line parallel to the stream encouraged further residential and commercial development. As urban density increased in the floodplain, seasonal floods grew more damaging. In the 1930s the Works Progress Administration of the federal government lined the lower 15 miles of Johnson Creek with rock to control the floods. Despite this, the creek flooded 37 times between 1941 and 2006. Since the 1990s, regional planners have tried to reduce flooding by controlling stormwater runoff, creating stream meanders, reducing erosion, replacing impervious surfaces, and protecting riparian buffers.


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