Example: Lagunitas Creek, Marin Co., California
Location: Lagunitas Creek headwaters emerge on the northern slopes of Mount Tamalpias, and terminate in Tomales Bay in west Marin County, California, capturing a 100 square mile watershed. The majority of salmon spawning occurs in tributaries such as San Geronimo, Devils Gulch, and Woodacre Creeks. Originating on Marin Municipal Water District lands, Lagunitas Creek flows through Samuel P. Taylor Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area lands, and through the town of Point Reyes Station.
Historical species/runs of salmon found here: Coho, Chinook, Chum salmon and steelhead all spawned in Lagunitas Creek historically.
Historical numbers: Prior to the construction of a series of dams for municipal water supply, historical runs of salmon were estimated at upwards of 5,000.
Current species/runs found here: Coho salmon, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout runs were present in Lagunitas Creek over at least the past thirteen consecutive years, and chum salmon have been recorded in six of those thirteen years. Lagunitas Creek is the southernmost coastal stream supporting annual Coho spawning on the West Coast of North America.
Current numbers and legal status: The Lagunitas Watershed currently supports the largest population of wild Coho salmon on the Central California coast and possibly in all of California, yet it remains critically endangered with a severely depressed population. The Coho salmon in Lagunitas Creek are listed by the state of California and the federal government as Endangered, and the Lagunitas Creek watershed is federally designated as critical habitat for coho salmon. Monitoring of the endangered Coho population recorded between 123-568 individuals in the Lagunitas Creek watershed during the years of 1995-2001. Salmon populations increased after 2001, with between 572-1342 individuals recorded during 2001-2006. However, the most recent assessment of the Coho spawning population in Lagunitas Creek watershed revealed a dramatic reduction to only 220 individual fish.
Major threats to salmon: Historically, the major assault on Lagunitas Creek salmon was the construction of dams. These dams were used to extract a significant fraction stream flow and eliminated approximately 50 percent of available spawning and nursery habitat. Currently, the major threat comes from increasing urbanization of the undammed headwaters of the San Geronimo Valley, where 50 percent of the current Coho population spawns.
How to Take Action: Visit SalmonAID member organizations, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN), and the Alameda Creek Alliance for more information about how small local groups up and down our Pacific Coast are working to protect and restore these invaluable waterways and their wild salmon populations. Don’t live in the San Francisco Bay Area? Contact us and we’ll put you in touch with an organization working to protect a wild salmon stream near you.