Big Chico Creek

In 2001, Western Rivers Conservancy established the 3,950-acre Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Chico, California. The reserve forever protects an important stretch of Big Chico Creek, one of the Middle Sacramento River’s critical tributaries.

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve protects five miles of its namesake river, Big Chico Creek, and is managed as an outdoor laboratory and classroom by California State University at Chico.

Big Chico Creek’s riparian corridor supports rich wildlife, including California’s only migratory herd of black-tailed deer.

The cold, clean waters in Big Chico Creek provide refuge for recovering runs of wild spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead, as well as for western pond turtle, foothill yellow-legged frog and several other threatened species.

Big Chico Creek is surrounded by oak woodlands, which are dominated by valley oak, blue oak, live oak and black walnut. Higher up, rocky bluffs tower over the creek.

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is home to some 175 bird species, including the Northern Saw-whet Owl. Saw-whets are small, nocturnal owls that live in dense forest ecosystems.

Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve ranges in elevation from 700 feet to 2,044 feet and contains a wide variety of habitats, including riparian areas, oak woodlands, chaparral, pine forest, rock cliffs and springs. These diverse habitats support more than 140 different wildlife species, including a number of listed species and species requiring large tracts of undisturbed habitat.