Russian River Watershed
Donation of a Nature Preserve
Light peers through the branches of bare oak woodlands on a sunny winter day. A photographer crouches in lush, green grass to capture an image of the stunning California sun setting over the Alexander Valley. It’s hard to imagine a better view of Wine Country than from the picturesque White Rock ecological preserve.
A popular site for our hikes, as well as special outings that often include nature photography, White Rock is a small but iconic preserve featuring oak woodlands, open grasslands and “White Rock,” a prominent face of silica carbonate deposited by the same geological forces that drive the Geysers. Adjacent to our Gird Creek conservation easement property, a portion of the stream — a tributary of the Russian River — also runs through White Rock Preserve.
The White Rock property was donated to Sonoma Land Trust in 1991 as a “permanent nature preserve” by Roy and Lois Chapin, friends of Otto Teller (one of the founders of Sonoma Land Trust). Four years later, the Chapins also donated a conservation easement over their Gird Creek property. Having seen the Alexander Valley change and develop around him, Roy, the former head of American Motors, wanted to protect the natural and open beauty of his land for future generations.
To protect and enhance the valuable biodiversity of this property, preserve manager Tom Tolliver holds occasional workdays for the removal of invasive plant species and soil erosion reduction projects (for the steelhead using Gird Creek downstream of our property). Learn more about volunteer workdays here.
White Rock Preserve is 92 acres of rolling oak woodland with a very important tributary of the Russian River running through it. The property contains approximately half a mile of Gird Creek, which confluences with the Russian River just two miles further downstream. Gird Creek is known habitat for steelhead, although a natural fish barrier (a waterfall) prevents access through much of White Rock Preserve. Nonetheless, the way we manage the property has an impact on water quality in the Russian River.
The unique geology of this region of the Mayacamas Mountains gives Gird Creek some unique characteristics. The steep, fractured rock of the Franciscan formation causes the creek to follow deep canyons, creating small but steep cascades and waterfalls. The creek flows through colorful serpentine rock and, while it nearly dries up in the summer, cool, clear pools remain to help sustain wildlife through the hot summer. Take a close look at any of these pools and you’ll find frogs and salamanders moving about, dragonfly nymphs preparing to sprout wings, or coyotes stopping for a drink.