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Instream Restoration Riparian Restoration Fish Passage
Red Clover Creek Demonstration Project   Plumas County, California
Primary Project Type: Instream Restoration
     Secondary Type: Riparian Restoration
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  Pre-restoration photograph on Red Clover Creek, September 1985...  

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Primary Problem: Channel Incision, Headcutting
     Secondary Problem: Overgrazing
Main Restoration Action(s): Check dams, Floodplain reconnection, Riparian revegetation
Native Fish Focus: N/A
Is this project part of a watershed scale restoration? Yes
     Click here for the description.
Project Dates: 1985 to 1995
  Initial Monitoring: 1985
Restoration Implementation: 1985
Follow-up Monitoring: through 1995
Lead Agency:
     Feather River Coordinated Resource Management (FRCRM) group
     Plumas Corporation
Project Partners:
  The Feather River Coordinated Resource Management (FRCRM) group is a consortium of 23 public and private sector groups:
Project Location: The FRCRM Committee selected a degraded one-mile stretch of Red Clover Creek as the demonstration site. This privately-owned reach of the creek, located in a relatively flat, alluvial portion of Red Clover Valley, had severe erosion problems typical of much of the region. The valley sits at an elevation of about 5,400 feet and is located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada crest, approximately 60 miles north of Truckee and 30 miles southeast of Quincy in Plumas County. It is six miles long and two miles wide and has a drainage area of 75 square miles. Click here for a map of the site.
Project Description: The information and text for this case history was adapted from the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management website at

Prior to 1880, the upper portion of Red Clover Creek, which flows through the project area, was reported as a low gradient, narrow channel with a well-developed riparian zone comprising hardwoods, sedges, and willows that protected the streambanks. The stream also had a reputation as a good trout fishery. Continued disturbance over time, particularly by roads and heavy sheep and cattle grazing, weakened and removed riparian vegetation, causing the channel to erode, widen, and cut more deeply into the fine substrate. By 1985, the actively eroding channel was 50 to 60 feet wide and had vertical cut banks up to 10 feet high. The erosion contributed large amounts of sediment to the North Fork Feather River system via Indian Creek. Water flow was confined; there was minimal vegetation and little cover for fish. The lowered water table in the meadows adjacent to the streambank converted the once-productive wet meadows to a dry sagebrush-dominated basin.
Project Goals: The objectives of the restoration project on Red Clover Creek were to: 1) obliterate the gully created by the actively eroding stream channel, 2) reconnect the channel to the floodplain and raise the water table to restore riparian and wet meadow vegetation adjacent the creek, and 3) monitor fish populations in the demonstration project area and at a downstream control site to assess the effects of restoration measures on fish and fish habitat.
Project Methods: After evaluating the physical, topographical, and biological characteristics of the site, FRCRM implemented the following: four loose rock check dams, revegetation, nonstructural (vegetative) bank stabilization measures, exclosure fencing, research studies, and a monitoring plan to evaluate the recovery of the area. Click here for more information on project methods.
Monitoring Data and Collection Methods: The Feather River CRM Committee wanted to be as comprehensive as possible in evaluating the recovery of the stream, but was constrained by funding and feasibility issues. The Committee sought to use key monitoring indicators that would respond quickly and dramatically to change and were representative of the variety of resources in the watershed. By assessment of key indicators, streambank stabilization techniques, flow, water table, channel geomorphology, vegetation, fisheries, wildlife and water quality were directly or indirectly monitored. For detailed information on the Red Clover Creek monitoring program, click here.
Was this project effective and how was this determined? The Feather River CRM Red Clover Creek Erosion Control Demonstration Project Ten-Year Research Summary (19851995) provides a broad overview of research results for the ten studies carried out at Red Clover Creek. The project results provided useful information about the pros and cons of the restoration technique of gully obliteration using a series of check dams. Check dams were beneficial in providing 1) a decrease in flow rate and sediment deposition; 2) restoration of the surface water-floodplain interaction; 3) an increase in water infiltration and meadow storage; 4) an increase in water table elevation; 5) restoration of riparian and wet meadow vegetation adjacent to the creek; and 6) enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat.

However, after more than 20 years post-restoration, the system is not sustainable. Upstream erosion and sediment transport into the project area has resulted in aggradation of the first pond inducing lateral migration of the channel and diversion of flood flows from that pond around the entire project area. This diverted flow has created an actively eroding channel with the same gully conditions observed in Red Clover Creek prior to restoration. The new channel/gully will require erosion control treatment. Click here to view the report. Click here for a summary of key findings of the 10-year study.
Click here for an enlarged photo
  (Before) Pre-restoration photograph on Red Clover Creek, November 1985...  
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  (After) Post-restoration photograph on Red Clover Creek, September 1993...  
Confounding Effects/Additional Information: The most significant lesson learned from almost 20 years of research at Red Clover Creek is that check dams are expensive, require regular maintenance, and may not create a sustainable system. Although they are effective in providing immediate benefits to fisheries, vegetation and waterfowl, they are only one of many options and should be used only when appropriate. Dams must be designed and sited with care to maintain site stability and to achieve overall project goals. Since the original Red Clover Creek restoration project, the Feather River CRM has implemented a new technique on other downcut creeks in the watershed. The technique involves abandonment of the creek's old incised gully, diversion of the creek into a remnant channel on the meadow floor above, and filling the old incised channel and converting sections of it into a series of ponds to create wildlife habitat. This technique has proven to be a more sustainable technique for restoring the surface-water/riparian-meadow function and for minimizing erosion. Furthermore, it is less expensive and requires less maintenance. Click here for an example of a project using this new technique.

The FRCRM is in the process of implementing a 3.5 mile-long project on Red Clover Creek and the McReynolds Creek tributary using the new technique. The project will extend to the bottom of the valley and upstream to encompass the original project. The intent is to expand the restoration area more sustainably and eliminate the new gully development described above.

Click here for a list of the other significant lessons learned from ten years of research at Red Clover Creek. This list is based on research results, observations, successes and failures, field experience, unanticipated constraints, interactions with the landowner, and advice from CRM supporters. This information may be useful to others planning and executing similar stream improvement projects in the future.
Project Specs (all specs are estimates):
  Overall Estimated Cost: $172,500 Click here for more information on estimated project cost.
For more information on this project contact:
  Jim Wilcox, Plumas Corp., Email:
This information was collected by: Kristin Keith
Project last updated on: 4/7/2007

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Updated: February 16, 2007
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