Major-ion, nutrient, and trace-element concentrations in the Steamboat Creek basin, Oregon, 1996

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4105

Prepared in cooperation with Douglas County and U.S. Forest Service



In September 1996, a water-quality study was done by the U.S. Geological Survey, in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service, in headwater streams of Steamboat Creek, a tributary to the North Umpqua River Basin in southwestern Oregon. Field measurements were made in and surface-water and bottom-sediment samples were collected from three tributaries of Steamboat Creek--Singe Creek, City Creek, and Horse Heaven Creek--and at one site in Steamboat Creek upstream from where the three tributaries flow into Steamboat Creek.

Water samples collected in Singe Creek had larger concentrations of most major-ion constituents and smaller concentrations of most nutrient constituents than was observed in the other three creeks. City Creek, Horse Heaven Creek, and Steamboat Creek had primarily calcium bicarbonate water, whereas Singe Creek had primarily a calcium sulfate water; the calcium sulfate water detected in Singe Creek, along with the smallest observed alkalinity and pH values, suggests that Singe Creek may be receiving naturally occurring acidic water.

Of the 18 trace elements analyzed in filtered water samples, only 6 were detected--aluminum, barium, cobalt, iron, manganese, and zinc. All six of the trace elements were detected in Singe Creek, at concentrations generally larger than those observed in the other three creeks. Of the detected trace elements, only iron and zinc have chronic toxicity criteria established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for the protection of aquatic life; none exceeded the USEPA criterion.

Bottom-sediment concentrations of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, zinc, and organic carbon were largest in City Creek. In City Creek and Horse Heaven Creek, concentrations for 11 constituents--antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, manganese (Horse Heaven Creek only), mercury, selenium, silver, zinc, and organic carbon (City Creek only)--exceeded concentrations considered to be enriched in streams of the nearby Willamette River Basin, whereas in Steamboat Creek only two trace elements--antimony and nickel--exceeded Willamette River enriched concentrations. Bottom-sediment concentrations for six of these constituents in City Creek and Horse Heaven Creek--arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc--also exceeded interim Canadian threshold effect level (TEL) concentrations established for the protection of aquatic life, whereas only four constituents between Singe Creek and Steamboat Creek--arsenic, chromium, copper (Singe Creek only), and nickel--exceeded the TEL concentrations.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Major-ion, nutrient, and trace-element concentrations in the Steamboat Creek basin, Oregon, 1996
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Portland, OR
Contributing office(s):
Oregon Water Science Center
iv, 31 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
North Umpqua River, Steamboat Creek
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