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History talk focuses on beleaguered Bear Creek

Humans are helping Bear Creek recover from the devastating Almeda fire, but they haven’t always treated the stream with care and respect.

In the past, the beleaguered creek was treated as a convenient dumping place for all manner of things, from household garbage to dead animals to industrial waste, according to archaeologist and historian Jeff LaLande.

He will present “History of Bear Creek: From Salmon Stream to Open Sewer and Back Again” at noon Wednesday via the Zoom videoconference service. The hourlong online lecture is free, although registration is required.

LaLande will sprinkle his talk with historic and modern photographs.

Bear Creek was never known for having crystal-clear water due to turbidity from the volcanic clays of the slopes on the northeast side of the Rogue Valley. But after white settlement of Southern Oregon, the creek’s water quality and quantity declined. Its water was used for domestic water supplies, powering a sawmill and irrigating crops, according to LaLande.

The creek was essentially treated like an open sewer to carry away waste.

Periodic destructive floods caused huge losses of property and farmland.

In recent years a concerted effort helped bring Bear Creek back toward its natural condition and flow patterns. Workers and volunteers have planted native vegetation and taken other steps to improve the health of the creek and habitat for fish.

Much of that work was destroyed when the wind-driven Almeda fire charred soil and burned plants, trees, homes and businesses along the Bear Creek and Highway 99 corridor, but restoration efforts are underway.

For information on registering for the online history talk, visit jcls.libcal.com/calendar/jcls_event/WIT-Nov-2020. A recording of the program will later be made available on the Jackson County Library Services YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/JCLSN2K.

LaLande’s talk on the history of Bear Creek is part of the monthly Windows in Time history lecture series — a joint effort of Jackson County Library Services and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. Writers, archaeologists and historians bring to life different aspects of Southern Oregon history.

The series moved online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The December Windows in Time lecture is online via Zoom at noon Wednesday, Dec. 2. Historian Larry Mullaly will present “Persistence: Chinese Labor and the Southern Oregon Railroads.”

Several past Windows in Time talks from this year can be viewed on the library service’s YouTube channel. Click on “Videos” to see the selections.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Bear Creek floods the Talent area as seen in this photo from Feb. 28, 1940.