The rain started to come down this past weekend and contrary to what my inner self thought I would do, I bee lined it straight for the trails, bike in tow. I'd been wanting to drive down the coast and check out one of the costal steelhead creeks south of San Francisco, so I threw the bike on top of the car and meandered my way down Highway One.
Once there, I cruised up the valley carved by centuries of rain and creek wanderings. Western Scrub Jays called from redwood canopies and ferns dripped with the day's drizzle. California Newts crawled out from their hiding places in celebration. However, even though we've been getting bits of rain here and there, the creek itself was clearly impacted by the drought.
Riding my bike along the creek, I couldn't help but think of the steelhead runs that've been coming up this creek for centuries. Steelhead, finding gravel that's just right to build redds to lay their eggs. Water moving at just the right speed to keep their eggs healthy and thriving. A process this delicate, requires a healthy, balanced ecosystem. One where parts work in harmony to support and nurture each other. The rain's been a long time coming. The creek was low. There was sediment building up on the creek bottom and the water was moving so slowly it lacked the oxygenating bubbles that adult steelhead, eggs, and alevin depend on. In spots, the creek had grinded to a halt, trickling through the cobbles on its way to the next pool.
In the coming months I plan to check out a few more Central California steelhead creeks. This one's on the top of the list, but not before some significant rains. Ones that will open up the sand bar blocking the creek's connection to the Pacific Ocean. Ones that scour the river bottom, creating space for paired off steelhead to do their dance. Steelhead are resilient, there's not doubt about that. However, a small population like the one inhabiting this creek can be erased with only a few years of drought. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that the rains come fast and strong. The Central California Coast Steelhead could use the water.