Albion River

Watershed Overview

The Albion River is located about 125 miles north of San Francisco in central Mendocino County, California. The Basin encompasses approximately 43 square miles (27,520 acres) of Northern California’s Coast Range. Its headwaters are inland approximately 12 miles at an elevation of 600 feet. Mathison Peak, at 1,030 feet is the highest point in the Basin.

The Albion Basin has a Mediterranean climate characterized by a pattern of low-intensity rainfall in the winter and cool, dry summers with coastal fog. Mean annual precipitation is about 40 inches at Fort Bragg near the western margin of the basin and about 50-55 inches at Willits to the east. About 90% of the precipitation in this area falls between October and April, with the highest average precipitation in January. Snowfall in this basin is very rare.

The Albion Basin is primarily characterized by Coastal Belt Franciscan geology and dominated by bedrock. The distribution of steep slopes and landslides generally occurs as four parallel NW oriented belts develop by the processes of faulting and folding. Regionally, the most prominent belts extend to the SE along the unusually straight Flynn Creek and the linear Anderson Valley, both located in the Navarro Basin adjacent and south of the Albion Basin. The epicenter of the 1989 earthquake was estimated to be within the Flynn Creek drainage.

The vegetation was historically and is currently dominated by conifers (59%), primarily redwood and Douglas fir. Thirty percent of the basin is composed of mixed forest consisting of tan oak, bay, madrone, and bishop pine and four percent is composed of hardwood forest. Comparison of 1993 and 2000 data show that the shrub and barren vegetation types are a result of re-colonization of harvested areas. Some changes in vegetation composition and distribution have occurred since timber harvest began in the mid 1800s.

There are two post office towns in the Albion Basin: Comptche near the headwaters and Albion near the mouth. The total Albion Basin resident population in the year 2000 census was estimated at about 912 people. The Estuary/Lower Subbasin is inhabited by 612 people, with the remainder residing in the Inland Subbasin.

The current salmonid resources of the Albion Basin include coho salmon and winter-run steelhead trout and incidental reports and anecdotal information also record Chinook and pink salmon. The Albion River appears to have sustainable coho salmon and steelhead trout populations due to the suitable fresh water temperatures, year-round open river mouth, and large estuary.


Albion River Subbasins

Mainstem Albion River downstream of East Railroad Gulch.
Albion River Mouth looking at the Pacific Ocean.
Eastern sub-region low relief landscape.
Coarse spawning gravels at the mouth of the South Fork Albion.
Estuarine vegetation seems to effectively stabilize some of the stored sediment in the lower river.
Low tide exposes a single thread channel flanked by mud flats.
Mud flats and salt tolerant grasses are typical along the lower Albion River.