What is a wetland?
While many of us think of a wetland as a swampy area that is mostly saturated with water, a more precise definition is needed to define which lands can be truly classified as wetlands. The Oregon Division of State Lands and the Department of Land Conservation and Development uses the following definition:
"Wetlands are those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions."
Wetlands share three common characteristics:
- Hydric soils; soils that have developed under extended periods of saturation.
- Hydrophytic vegetation; plants that are adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.
- Presence of water; inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater for a specific frequency and duration.
Wetlands are typically, but not exclusively, found in depressions or the lowest portion of the landscape. Landscape position, climate, and soil type all influence wetland formation. Expect to find wetlands:
- in historic stream channels.
- in low areas with a high water table.
- in flat valleys or depressions where impervious soil layers create a "perched" water table.
- near creeks, rivers and lakes.
- on slopes where groundwater breaks out as springs or seeps.