Spring-fed streams are the rarest of rivers. Born from underground springs rather than runoff, they flow steadily year-round, with crystal-clear water that stays consistently cold. Classic “spring creeks” have gradual descents, and they meander slowly through the landscape with postcard-perfect laziness. They’re rich in nutrients, insects and bird life and provide some of the most fertile trout habitat in the West.
On California’s storied Fall River, one of the largest spring creeks in the country, Western Rivers Conservancy has kicked off an effort to preserve some of the best fish and bird habitat in the state. We will also create some of the only public access to the Fall River, which is as well-known for its private property as it is for its fish.
This winter, we committed to purchase Island Ranch, which is nestled between the Fall River and its two largest tributaries, the Tule and Little Tule rivers. The property lies adjacent to Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park and the protected McArthur Swamp, and it sits at the heart of the Audubon Society’s designated Fall River Valley Important Bird Area. The valley, which is located on the Pacific Flyway, supports a tremendous diversity of breeding ducks, shorebirds and sandhill cranes and thousands of over-wintering ducks and geese that stage here during the spring migration.
Our purchase of Island Ranch offers an unheard-of opportunity to conserve four miles of the Fall and three miles of the Tule and Little Tule rivers, while setting the stage for much-needed habitat restoration. We hope to convey the ranch to the Fall River Resource Conservation District, an ideal community-based solution that will allow us to permanently protect the ranch. The RCD will manage the property for habitat enhancement, conservation-focused agriculture and compatible public access. That’s an outcome that will benefit the Fall, its wild fish, its diverse bird life and anyone who hopes to experience this one-of-a-kind California spring-fed stream.