The Current Magazine Summer 2018 - Page 20


Woodman Creek, located five miles north of Dos Rios, is a tributary of the Eel River which is one of California’s most significant salmon and steelhead strongholds. CalTrout is overseeing a major project to restore fish passage to Woodman Creek where salmon have not found their way into its watershed for over a century.

The Northwestern Pacific Railroad was constructed in 1914 through the Eel River Canyon which permanently blocked the migration pathway for salmon and steelhead into Woodman Creek. Now, a century after it was built, this story takes a turn in favor of fish restoration. The Woodman Creek Fish Passage Project will remove the railroad embankment that buried the mouth of Woodman Creek, which will open access to high-quality steelhead and salmon habitat.

The historic railroad line was built through an area known to have high geological and tectonic activity including gigantic ‘deep-seated landslides’

slumping into the Eel River, catastrophic earthquakes, and powerful floods which often ravaged through the canyon. The 1997 flood caused a bedrock cliff to shear off next to Woodman, where a portion of the tunnel collapsed into the river thus ending any prospect of railroad service ever returning to this line.

As mentioned in the Eureka Times Standard, “railroad workers at the time filled in about 500 feet of the creek and blasted a large hole in the bedrock in order to complete a bridge. These changes altered the mouth of the creek so that fish would now have to leap up a series of steep cascades to access the creek, which essentially cut off access to most fish.”

The Woodman Creek Fish Passage Project has taken the better part of seven years for CalTrout and numerous partners to plan and prepare for. This project, which is led by our North Coast Regional Director Darren Mierau, will support quality local jobs while providing significant ecological benefits to the region.