STUART CREEK RUN & STUART CREEK HILL
Stuart Creek Run: 3.5
Stuart Creek Hill: 14
Stuart Creek Run: 2011
Stuart Creek Hill: 2012
Sonoma Valley & Mountain
A Fish Story: Bringing Steelhead Back to Stuart Creek
In 2011, Sonoma Land Trust jumped at the chance to acquire Stuart Creek Run, a small, 3.53-acre Glen Ellen property along Stuart Creek and in the heart of the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor. We perceived a number of conservation opportunities — primarily, the chance to remove barriers that were preventing federally threatened steelhead trout access to 2.34 miles of high-quality spawning and rearing habitat. Stuart Creek is a major tributary of Sonoma Creek, which once supported the second largest steelhead run among all Bay Area streams.
But the challenges to completing the project were greater than we initially realized. In addition to the eroding bridge on Stuart Creek Run, we learned of two other fish barriers after purchase: a culvert beneath a bridge on Arnold Drive and a historic dam on our nearby Glen Oaks Ranch Preserve. After fundraising for this nearly million-dollar project, and with the help of community partners, we successfully removed the three stream barriers and improved the streambed in 2014.
Built to withstand a 100-year storm, the 900-foot stretch of creek on this property now has water washing over pools and chutes on the creekbed, specially designed to provide passage and rest for steelhead on their way to spawn. Land Trust staff monitor the creek routinely and, although we have yet to see a steelhead returning to the ancestral home, our anticipation grows with each winter’s rains.
And to give the project the best chance for success, we also purchased a 14-acre undeveloped parcel directly across from Glen Oaks Ranch along Highway 12. This property, known as Stuart Creek Hill, includes oak woodlands and high-quality grassland, along with a stretch of Stuart Creek. It is one parcel away from connecting to Stuart Creek Run and is functionally connected to Glen Oaks by the creek.
Note that now you can visit Stuart Creek Run yourself! In 2017, Sonoma Land Trust completed construction of visitors’ facilities just off Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen, complete with three parking spaces, educational signage, picnic tables built by our skilled volunteers and beautiful views overlooking the flowing creek. We hope, someday, as you enjoy an afternoon at Stuart Creek, you’ll spot a steelhead swimming upstream once again.
Come On Out! Recreation and Volunteer Workdays
Stuart Creek Run may be one of Sonoma Land Trust’s smallest preserves, but it came out in a big way as being our first property fully opened to the public for recreation. This 3.5-acre property includes a couple short paths to two shaded picnic areas that look out over the water and dense riparian vegetation.
This property has also become the focus for a group of the Land Trust’s wonderful and dedicated volunteers who single-handedly maintain the facility, and keep it beautiful and clean for all to enjoy. Without these amazing individuals volunteering their time, Stuart Creek Run as it is would not be possible!
Learn more about volunteer workdays at the Land Trust’s preserves.
Small Size, Big Impact
Stuart Creek Hill is one of our smallest preserves. Under ordinary circumstances, the high purchase price of this 14-acre property located near Glen Ellen with value as an estate home and/or vineyard might have dissuaded the Land Trust from purchasing it. With the onset of our wildlife corridor work, however, this property stood out as an important piece of the puzzle because, owning it, we could control both sides of a bridge under busy Highway 12 (on the other side is our Glen Oaks Ranch Preserve).
Stewardship staff suspected that the bridge functioned as one of only a few important pathways for animals to get past the dangers of Highway 12 traffic. After two years of monitoring, we found that, indeed, this bridge underpass is the most used road crossing in the region and it is critical to keep it that way.
Protecting little properties can sometimes have big benefits.