Exploring a Stage Zero Valley - Aggraded, Avulsed, Restored
Willow Creek, a tributary to the Russian River's estuary, has a 2-mile long low gradient alluvial valley that had been managed for drained and irrigated agricultural land for over 100 years. Over the last 30-year period it transformed itself from an incised single-thread channel into a wetland channel complex through channel aggradation and multiple avulsions. This transformation helped inspire Cluer and Thorne's development of the Stream Evolution Model and the concept of Stage 0 channels. In 2011 the fish passage barrier in the lower valley was removed. Coho and steelhead immediately navigated through the multi-threaded wetland channels and returned to the upper watershed to spawn. Coho numbers and migration patterns in the watershed have been monitored by California Sea Grant's Russian River Salmon and Steelhead Monitoring Team since 2011.
Come spend the day learning about and exploring the well-developed Stage 0 channel network of lower Willow Creek. This tour is for those who want to put on their waders and get intimate with the best local example of a Stage 0 stream, a relatively rare channel form in modern time. Come see for yourself the complex array of habitats that salmonids can use, and that may well be necessary for their survival and recovery.