MKWC implements restoration projects that enhance access and habitat at cold water refugial areas for both adult and juvenile salmonids along the Klamath River from Iron Gate Dam to the Trinity River. Partnerships between tribal agencies, adjacent landowners, and area residents are being formed to focus restoration efforts on these critical habitats. Recent scientific studies in the Klamath by the Karuk and Yurok Tribes, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council, Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shown the critical importance of thermal refugia associated with creek mouths during the summer months when mainstem Klamath temperatures exceed lethal levels for salmonids. By understanding the dynamic relationship between the mainstem Klamath and these tributaries through historic photo analysis, data collection, synthesis of existing related research, and strategic field work aimed at filling data gaps, we can identify opportunities to improve these refugial habitats and access to them from the Klamath River.
The thermal refugia work in the mid Klamath has been funded through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Bella Vista Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, PacifiCorp Coho Enhancement Fund, and the Humboldt County Resource Advisory Council. This work is also implemented by volunteers. Under the guidance of fish biologist experts, volunteers move rocks and materials to concentrate cold water entering the river. One year on Sandy Bar Creek, volunteers lowered the temperature at the creek mouth by six degress Celsius. At Ti Creek, volunteers increased the size of the refugial area at the mouth by shifting flow from going straight into the main Klamath current, and into an eddy with complex cover. Juvenile fish counts before and after this work show fish numbers had increased from less than 100 to nearly 600 within a week.
During the summer of 2009, low flows and resulting high temperatures in the Klamath River and tributaries concentrated salmonids into refugia where fishing and other predation, as well as increased spread of disease, cause higher mortality rates. Several key tributaries for threatened coho salmon, including the Scott River and Seiad Creek, dried up in sections.
If you would like to see a slide show of creek mouth panoramas taken by Mike Hentz for the Bella Vista Mid Klamath Creek Mouth Assessment Project click Here.
Thompson Creek Restoration
In September, 2009, MKWC completed its first mechanical restoration of a tributary mouth at Thompson Creek. In collaboration with the landowners, USFS, DFG, and the Karuk Tribe, an excavator was used to re-connect an old channel at the mouth of the creek that had been disconnected after the channel was straightened following the 1997 Flood. This new channel provides better access up the creek for adult salmonids and excellent rearing habitat for outmigrating juvenile salmonids.
There are several things that you can do to help fish and protect refugial areas during the hot summer and fall months:
- Swim outside of the refugial areas (where creeks enter the river).
- Don’t park rafts, kayaks or boats in or directly adjacent to creek mouths
- Volunteer with MKWC on a creek mouth enhancement workday!