Restoring Rivers

Hillsides that have been logged surround a creek
A typical example of the impacts of redwood logging on rivers and forests. Bridge Creek was logged in the 1960s.


Two-thirds of the 120,000 forested acres that is now in Redwood National and State Parks had been clear-cut logged before the parks were established. Logging operations didn't just harm the forests - but it also impacted all the streams, creeks, and rivers in what is called the "watershed". Without a healthy watershed the wildlife and the forests can not flourish. Fish like engangered Coho salmon struggle to survive in the damaged riperian areas. Since the 1980s we have been working on restoring damaged riparian areas in the parks. A large part of the Redwoods Rising restoration project will focus on removing logging roads and riparian restoration.

You can experience a 360 degree video of healthy Godwood Creek in the redwoods, and a 360 degree video of unhealthy May Creek in the redwoods that was buried during logging in the early 1960s.


Riparian Restoration in the Redwoods

A ponded creek is surrounded by trees A ponded creek is surrounded by trees

Left image
The water flow is blocked by an earthen bridge and failed culverts. Coho salmon are unable to migrate and spawn upstream.
Credit: NPS

Right image
After restoration water flows freely and large wood has been placed to provide refuge and habitat for fish.
Credit: NPS

Before and after restoration photos of Streelow Creek in Redwood National Park.

Water flows out of culverts into a creek
Water flows out of culverts sitting above a creek. Salmon are unable to migrate past this kind of barrier.


We are improving fish habitat by removing upslope sources of erosion and sediment such as abandoned logging roads. In past decades when these legacy roads have failed in major winter storms, hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of sediment and dirt entered the watershed. These landslides buried streams and creeks where salmon and other species lived. On a smaller scale across dozens of places we also will continue to remove earthen bridges built to support logging trucks when they used to cross the streams and creeks. Often these bridges have culverts (pipes) that are too small for the stream's flow, or the culverts have rusted away and become blocked with debris. This failure of the culverts means fish cannot swim upstream, and the diverted water flow will also cause downstream erosion.

Two Creeks: Two Different Stories

A creek flows over cobbles and past trees and ferns. A creek flows over cobbles and past trees and ferns.

Left image
Godwood Creek flows over cobbles and has good water quality.
Credit: NPS: Neal Youngblood

Right image
May Creek pools up because of sediment blocking its flow.
Credit: NPS: Neal Youngblood

Even though they are only a mile apart in the Greater Prairie Creek Watershed, Godwood and May Creek have totally different stories and very different health. Godwood Creek was protected in 1923 by the creation of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and it supports a wide range of wildlife and it flows normally. The redwoods around Godwood Creek were not logged.

The redwoods along May Creek were clear-cut in the early 1960s before this landscape was incorporated into the boundaries of Redwood National Park. The quality of this creek is poor. It is an example of a riparian system that is blocked by sediment, it does not flow well, and it can not support salmon. May Creek is to be restored by Redwoods Rising.

Heavy machinery places large wood into a stream
Large wood is placed into a restored stream in the Greater Mill Creek Watershed.


In the Greater Mill Creek (GMC) and the Greater Prairie Creek (GPC) watersheds we continue to restore stream habitats. This means heavy equipment is used to remove human-made obstructions like earthen bridges, to dig down to reveal the original stream channel, placement of large wood back into in the streams to provide deep pools and resting zones for fish, and planting of native species along the riparian areas. In many places in the parks this has been completed - not only has this benefited the ecosystem - but it has allowed for the creation of hike and bike opportunities at places like Lost Man Creek Trail. Annually, there are restoration events put on by the Watershed Stewards Program where the public can participate in some riparian restoration activities.

Mill Creek Restoration

A free flowing creek with little obstruction A free flowing creek with little obstruction

Left image
The creek has no large wood in the channel and has little variation in its flow.
Credit: CDPR

Right image
The same site after restoration has more habitat and complexity for different species.
Credit: CDPR

Before and after photos of one small section of Mill Creek's restoration.

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    Last updated: April 18, 2022

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