Whitehorse Cutthroat


Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat

Five of the six native Lahontan Cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi) populations in Oregon exist in the Coyote Lakes basin of southeast Harney County (ODFW 2005). The major drainages in the Coyote Lakes Basin are Willow and Whitehorse Creeks.

Whitehorse Creek Basin Cutthroat trout photographed underwater in Southeastern Oregon

What I found unique to this population of Lahontans are their markings and coloration. First, a flat crimson red runs from the gill plates back - losing intensity nearer the tail. Large black spotting on the back and tail area. Prominent parr marks eventhough size indicted these adults had spawned. Lower fins were a brown, dusky hue. The belly colored gray to olive. A very prominent head and jaw - a threat to eat anything it can fit in its mouth.

Whitehorse Creek Cutthroat caught and released in Southeastern Oregon

Historic Distribution

Both drainages originate on the north slope of Trout Creek Mountain, terminate in the dry Coyote lake bed and are currently isolated from each other or any other basin. Populations of Lahontan cutthroat in Willow and Whitehorse Creeks have been protected under the ESA as a threatened species since 1991 and are also listed as threatened under State of Oregon statue.

Whitehorse Creek Basin Cutthroat trout photographed in native stream.

There are two vast basins east of the Steens Range: Alvord Desert directly below the mountains and the Whitehorse, or Coyote basin to the South and East. The Alvord is flat; the Whitehorse is as large, but more rolling and broken. Historically, and within living memory, each basin had a subspecies of cutthroat trout peculiar to it. They were off shoots of the Lahontan cutthroat (O. clarki henshawi), and survived in tiny headwaters high in, of all places, the Trout Creek Mountains, a smaller east-west range south of the Steens. At this writing, the Alvord cutthroat is presumably extinct, having had the misfortune to encounter the gregarious and profilic stocked rainbow trout in all its waters except, of course, those waters cows had already evicted it. The Whitehorse trout may be alive in their aboriginial streams, although those headwaters were so badly overgrazed by lesses of the Bureau of Land Management (an oxymoron to rival "military intelligence") that survival is problematic at best.

Many Rivers to Cross by M.R. Montgomery  

13 inch Whitehorse Creek Cutthroat signature colors