South Fork Trinity River Watershed Restoration
The South Fork Trinity River (SFTR) is the longest undammed Wild and Scenic River remaining in California. The mainstem of the river stretches over 92 miles from the Yolla Bolla and Chanchelulla Wilderness areas down to its confluence with the Trinity River near Willow Creek. The watershed is comprised of another 585 miles of tributaries including its major tributary Hayfork Creek. The watershed encompasses nearly 100 square miles and is larger in area than the Scott, Shasta, Smith or Salmon River watersheds respectively. Due to its rugged mountains and lack of road access to the river it is largely overlooked by the general population and resource managers alike. Therefore, a very appropriate name which has been historically bestowed on this basin is the “Hidden Valley Watershed”. Check out footage of spawning salmon on the South Fork from the 2012 Salmon Gathering in Hyampom: Spawners in the South Fork
The Watershed Center has been involved in upslope forest restoration of the SFTR since the early 1990’s, but in 2006, the Watershed Center launched a multi-party effort to understand and conserve the instream components of the basin, primarily focusing on reinvigorating restoration efforts on the SFTR.
In early 2011 the Watershed Center was awarded a grant from the California Department of Conservation in which Joshua Smith was selected as the co-Watershed Coordinator for the South Fork Trinity River in partnership with the Trinity County Resource Conservation District.
A few of our current efforts in the Hidden Valley Watershed are:
- Spring Chinook Recovery efforts – in 2012 concern over dwindling population of spring Chinook salmon led a number of fisheries and watershed specialists to create the first step in a “Limiting Factors Analysis” document. The document is an attempt to determine why spring Chinook populations are not recovering as well as we hoped. It was written in a collaboration between the following groups: US Forest Service, Yurok Tribe, Trinity County Resource Conservation District, Ca Fish and Wildlife, and the Trinity River Restoration program.
- Hayfork Community Wetland Enhancement project – this unique project is essentially the creation of a wild park within the community of Hayfork by enhancing existing wetland features in an area riddled by discarded old mining vestiges. We hope to create community trails, a habitat sanctuary, and an outdoor classroom for the schools of Hayfork.
- Invasive noxious weed removal and planning – The WRTC is currently working with the Trinity County RCD, the US Forest Service, and the California Invasive Plants Council to map and prioritize noxious weed management in the SFTR. The WRTC also provides a Youth Restoration Crew and volunteer days to remove noxious weeds such as Knapweed and scotch broom in the SFTR.
- Water quality monitoring in collaboration with the Klamath Basin Monitoring Program, the US Forest Service and the State Water Quality Control Board. We are attempting to better understand stream health and ecosystem function by monitoring the following parameters: water chemistry, water temperature, sediment, riparian vegetation, benthic macroinvertebrates, and physical channel characteristics.
- Anadromous fish monitoring in collaboration with the Ca. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Yurok Tribe, and the US Forest Service. WRTC staff help organize and populate winter steelhead redd surveys and spring Chinook/summer steelhead snorkel surveys. We also conduct genetic sample collection in collaboration with Humboldt State University.
- Hayfork Creek Cleanup – Several times per year we work with Hayfork’s Trek for Trash group who collect trash from roadsides in Hayfork to promote pride in our community. We partner with Trek for Trash in creek cleanup days called Splash for Trash where we utilize volunteers to clean trash from our waterways.
- We also have begun other investigations into riparian plantings, groundwater studies, road/sediment inventories, water conservation, and prescribed fire as a tool for watershed restoration.
You can help the SFTR by volunteering in our South Fork Basin Stewards program. Please come help us conduct the following activities:
- going for a swim with us on one of the fish snorkel surveys,
- lending a hand on a “splash for trash” river clean-up day,
- joining in efforts to monitor temperature, water quality and sediment,
- assist in noxious weed removal projects,
- keeping a close watch on the river to relay info to our staff,
- contributing monetarily to the cause, or
- simply learning as much as you can and becoming a steward of our watershed!
Partners in restoration include:
- The Trinity County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD). The Conservation District’s road improvement and decommissioning program has been positively affecting the sediment levels in the watershed for over a decade. Without a doubt, this work has been some of the most productive restoration work done for the SFTR. The TCRCD and the WRTC have partnered on several projects lately such as becoming co-watershed coordinators for the SFTR.
- The US Forest Service owns approximately 80% of the land in the SFTR so obviously they are a major partner on any significant activity in the basin. We hope to continue to work closely with the USFS and to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our partnership.
- The Yurok Tribe’s fisheries program has dedicated time and resources to better understanding the SFTR’s unique fishery and will work to protect the watershed’s ability to provide critical habitat to culturally significant species such as Coho and Spring Chinook salmon.
- The Salmon River Restoration Council (SRRC). The Salmon River and the SFTR are the last strongholds for Spring Chinook Salmon. The SRRC has a great track record of community involvement, stewardship, and fisheries restoration and we hope to learn from their vast experience. A partnership between our small community based organizations makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways, especially the natural link that is created by the last remaining wild Spring Chinook in the Klamath Basin.
- The Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program (5C). We have worked with the 5C to push for projects including fish passage, road grading ordinances, road inventories, monitoring, wetland restoration, and other sediment reduction projects.