Reed College Canyon

Natural History of the Canyon


Amphibians | Birds | Fish | Macroinvertebrates | Mammals



The Reed Canyon supports a broad array of animal life. There are breeding populations of many bird species, and the lake supports large schools of sticklebacks and other fish. The mammals are harder to spot, but quiet visitors can usually catch a glimpse of a beaver or a nutria in the upper end of the canyon toward the springs.

We don't have complete lists of all the organisms found in the canyon, but this page should give you a good sense of the variety that exists.


salamander imageAt one time the canyon likely supported a broad range of native amphibians, but most of those animals disappeared over the past century. There is only one amphibian that is known to exist as a breeding population in the canyon right now, the Oregon Salamander, (more infoEnsatina eschscholtzii oregonensis.


The Oregon salamander has been the focus of faculty research, as well as several senior theses in the Biology department. Interestingly, a senior thesis from 1952 gives us a report of another salamander that existed in the canyon at that time (although it is no longer found here), the Pacific Giant Salamander, (more infoDicamptodon tenebrosus.

There is also a single turtle (named "Yertle") who can usually be seen basking in the sun on a log near the amphitheater. Yertle is thought to be a former pet that was released into the canyon. As far as we know, there are no breeding pairs of turtles in the canyon at this point.

Based on their known distributions, other amphibians that might move into the canyon in the future include:

Northwestern Salamander, (more info) Ambystoma gracile
Long-toed Salamander, (more info) Ambystoma macrodactylum
Roughskin Newt, (more info) Taricha granulosa
Western Toad, (more info) Bufo boreas
Pacific Tree Frog, (more info) Pseudacris regilla
Red-legged Frog, (more info) Rana aurora
Bullfrog, (more info) Rana catesbeiana

For more information, see the Habitat Assessment of Reed Canyon from the Portland Parks and Recreation Department.


woodyMany species of birds can be found in the canyon and several local birdwatchers have kept lists of what they've seen. A few birds, such as the mallards, are willing to tolerate the human activity around the middle of the canyon, but most birds prefer the more secluded areas to the east and west of the lake.

Here are some of the most common birds:

Ducks/Water Birds

Wood Duck
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
American Widgeon
American Coot
Belted Kingfisher
Great Blue Heron
Green-Backed Heron


Glaucous-winged Gull
American Kestrel
Western Screech Owl
Sharp-shinned Hawk


Perching Birds

Barn Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Scrub Jay
Stellar's Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Bewick's Wren
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Varied Thrush
Song Sparrow
Rufous-sided Towhee
House Finch
Evening Grossbeak
American Goldfinch

For more information, see:

Images of most of these birds can be found on the CalPhotos web site.


With the construction of a dam and the creation of Reed Lake in the early 1900's, migrating fish were blocked from reaching the upper reaches of the canyon. Fish continued to live and spawn, however, in Crystal Springs Creek.

Here are some of the fish that have been recorded in the stream flowing out of the western end of the canyon.

Coho Salmon, (more info) Oncorhynchus kisutch
Chinook Salmon, (more info) Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
Steelhead and/or Rainbow Trout, (more info) Oncorhynchus mykiss
Cutthroat Trout, (more info) Oncorhynchus clarki clarki
Common Carp, (more info) Cyprinus carpio carpio
Redside Shiner, (more info) Richardsonius balteatus
Speckled Dace, (more info) Rhinichthys osculus
Largescale Sucker, (more info) Catostomus macrocheilus
Bridgelip Sucker, (more info) Catostomus columbianus
Largemouth Bass, (more info) Micropterus salmoides
Smallmouth Bass, (more info) Micropterus dolomieui
Bluegill, (more info) Lepomis macrochirus
Brown Bullhead, (more info) Ameiurus nebulosus
Threespine Stickleback, (more info) Gasterosteus aculeatus aculeatus
Pacific Lamprey, (more info) Lampetra tridentata
Prickly Sculpin, (more info) Cottus asper


The mammals of the Reed Canyon have not been as thoroughly studied as the birds or the fish. Several visitors have reported seeing beavers, bats, squirrels and more, but we do not have any precise information on numbers or species.

Based on their known distributions, here are some of the mammals that you might see in the canyon:

Coyote, Canidae
American Beaver, Castor canadensis
Nutria, Myocastor coypus
Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus
Common Raccoon, Procyon lotor
Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana
California Ground Squirrel, Spermophilus beecheyi
Western Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus
Vagrant Shrew, Sorex vagrans
Pacific Marsh Shrew, Sorex bendirii
Brush Rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani

For more information, see the Habitat Assessment of Reed Canyon from the Portland Parks and Recreation Department.


Students from the Environmental Middle School here in Portland are currently studying the macroinvertebrates of the canyon. We hope to have some of their information on-line very soon.

For more information, see the Crystal Springs Creek data from Rick Boatner at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.