Estuary Subbasin Overview

The Redwood Creek estuary is located approximately three miles west of the town of Orick. The Estuary Subbasin is within the CalWater 2.2.1 Skunk Cabbage Creek Planning Watershed. Main features of the Estuary Subbasin are the estuary/lagoon, the town of Orick, rural residential developments, agricultural and pasture lands, and flood control levees. The mainstem Redwood Creek channel of the Estuary Subbasin extends inland approximately 3.0 miles to the confluence with Prairie Creek, but salt water intrusion only extends 1.6 miles upstream from the ocean. Tributary channels to the estuary are Strawberry, Sand Cache, and Dorrance creeks. The lower reaches of Sand Cache and Dorrance creeks form the North Slough channels.

The Redwood Creek estuary alternates seasonally between an open estuary and a closed coastal lagoon. The estuary usually remains open from the first substantial rains in the fall until the early summer season when a sand bar forms across the estuary mouth, creating a coastal lagoon.

Estuary Subbasin summary, Redwood Creek.

Square Miles 5.4
Total Acreage 3,430
Private Acres 2,120
Federal Acres 1,420
State Acres 0
Principal Communities Orick
Predominant Land Use Livestock grazing
Predominant Vegetation Type Pasture/Agricultural land
Miles of Anadromous Stream ~5
Low Elevation (feet) 0
High Elevation (feet) 1,243
The Redwood Creek estuary/lagoon plays a vital role as habitat for juvenile and adult anadromous salmonids. The estuary/lagoon once had all of the characteristics of excellent anadromous salmonid habitat, but its present value as fisheries habitat is greatly reduced compared to the historic condition. Over the past 125 years, the estuary area has been altered by conversion of forest, riparian and wetland areas to pasture land, and by channel modifications and levee construction. These changes combined with sediment accumulations have impaired the physical and biologic function and capacity of the estuary/lagoon to support salmonids. The present estuary condition limits salmonid production.

The Redwood Creek estuary is an excellent candidate area for channel and riparian improvement projects that benefit for anadromous salmonids. RNSP and others have developed management alternatives to improve the estuarine habitat while offering flood control protection to the town of Orick and pasturelands surrounding the estuary. The recent project alternatives include levee removal, relocation, and re-configuration. A restoration project should benefit fish production by increasing the depth and area of the lower embayment while increasing depth, shelter, connectivity, and circulation between the main channel and slough channels. Projects that increase the estuary/lagoon’s juvenile salmonid carrying capacity and survival rate during the summer months should receive high priority. Restoration efforts that move conditions and processes towards historic status also will benefit other fish and wildlife resources of Redwood Creek.