Endangered Species Found in California Creek for the First Time

by Megan Molseed
MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images / Contributor

Just over a year ago, Mill Creek saw some renovations including the removal of a dam that had long been present in the central California tributary. Now, officials are beginning to see some massive benefits to this dam removal after scientists discovered an endangered wildlife species located in the water.

Ecologists Uncover Endangered Trout Species In California Creek

Aquatic ecologists working for a popular conservation group, Sempervirens Fund discovered something amazing recently. The conservation group co-owns an 8,532-acre California forest known as San Vicente Redwoods. And, in these woods swimming in a recently dammed body of water, the ecologists found two endangered fish species.

According to reports, these experts discovered 12 juvenile steelhead trout as well as 15 federally endangered coho salmon swimming in the creek. The discovery is extra exciting because this is the very first time the coho salmon has ever been recorded in the California creek.

“The 1st endangered coho salmon was documented in Mill Creek!” notes a recent Twitter post from the ecologists.

“And 2 threatened steelhead trout made their way above the former dam site,” the message continues. “For the first time in 100 years!” the message continues.

Experts Never Expected To See These Endangered Salmon And Trout In The California Creek

Prior to its removal, the creek’s dam was preventing these migratory fish from being able to swim upstream. The dam also trapped the granite sediment that serves as spawning beds for the endangered salmon.

“We didn’t expect to see any coho in Mill Creek,” the Sempervirens Fund’s senior land stewardship manager Ian Rowbotham says of the trout and the salmon. However, these fish are certainly present in the area. In fact, the coho salmon was the very first fish they spotted on that particular day.

“We have no way of knowing how much cobble went downstream,

“We have no way of knowing how much cobble went downstream,” notes Matthew Shaffer, a spokesperson for the Sempervirens Fund. “Or if salmon just happened to find the creek and make their way up as a coincidence.”

“But it is rather remarkable that after a year of historic flooding,” Shaffer adds. “And the work we’ve done over the last decade that we did find them within a year.” 

While the presence of the salmon was quite impressive to the experts, so was the appearance of the trout. According to the Sempervirens, this was the first time in 100 years that the currently endangered species found its way upstream from the dam.

“It is reassuring to know that the dam removal project has opened access to additional habitat should the species expand its range upstream in Mill Creek in the future,” notes a press release regarding the sightings of these coho salmon and steelhead trout.