Western Rivers Conservancy protected a 77-acre property on California’s North Coast to help restore the Redwood Creek Estuary to its historically healthy salmon habitat. Redwood Creek flows dam-free from California’s coastal mountains and through protected redwood forests to meet the Pacific Ocean near Orick. Levees installed in the 1960s to protect Orick from floods have all but eliminated the natural flow and function of the estuary. What once was rich and complex habitat for salmon, birds and wildlife has become a shallow, warm and unsheltered environment.
Redwood Creek still provides for runs of Chinook and steelhead, and it has one of the better coho runs in the state, but the habitat is nothing near what it once was. As a result, the State of California has prioritized restoration of the Redwood Creek Estuary, and the modification of the levees. In fact, the State has deemed this project one of the highest priorities for fish habitat restoration on California's North Coast.
In March 2009, Western Rivers Conservancy protected the 77-acre property, a former dairy farm adjacent to the estuary, and conveyed the land to the Northcoast Regional Land Trust. With the lands in conservation ownership, state agencies can move forward on long-term plans to modify the levees and rejuvenate tidal wetlands, recreating meandering side-channel habitat and deep pools. Estuary restoration will be an important step for the health of the entire watershed and its runs of Chinook and coho salmon and steelhead trout. It will also have great benefits for a wide array of shorebirds and waterfowl, including mallard and cinnamon teal.