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Eel River / Van Duzen River Restoration and Spawning Tour

January 28, 2017

Join us on a full day tour of the Van Duzen watershed, a 420 square mile tributary to the Eel River. The tour will view 3-4 restoration and watershed management sites and have in-the-field presentations from resource experts Scott Downie retired CDFW and Randy Klein retired hydrologist who will discuss the sediment and fish dynamics of the lowest reach of the Van Duzen; Keith Lackey with HRC presents a restoration success story on Lawrence Creek; and Eric Stockwell with Loleta Eric Guiding Service will lead the group in hunting for spawning evidence or live action.

Click here to register for this tour ($55)
Participants will be shuttled to tour stops in the Pacific Outfitters van.
Limited availability – reserve your spot soon!

  • 1st Leg: Lawrence Creek
  • 2nd Leg: Visit a spawning reach
  • Lunch at Murrish Market
  • 3rd Leg: Lower Van Duzen
  • 4th Leg: Lower Eel River
  • 5th Leg: Eel River Brewery


Leg 1: Lawrence Creek Off-channel Habitat for Coho

Juvenile coho salmon seek slow velocity areas as rivers rise during storm events.  Studies have shown significant increase in juvenile coho salmon growth and survival when they have access to slow water refuge in off-channel ponds during these storms.  In addition, off channel features also provide habitat for several other animals including reptiles, amphibians and numerous bird species. In 2014, Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) identified an abandoned overflow channel that had the potential to become off channel habitat in Lawrence Creek located within the Van Duzen River watershed and asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to partner on the project.  NMFS conducted the physical surveys, created the design, and a small competitive internal grant from NOAA provided funding for part of the project construction.  HRC worked on the permits, donated heavy equipment and operators as well as several large logs with root wads to build the instream structures. Read more about the project on NMFS site.

In September of 2015, an off-channel pond was created that is approximately 150 feet long, 45 feet wide, and has two separate pools from 4 to 6 feet deep.  In addition to the deep water pools, the pond was designed to have edge water habitat from 1-2 feet deep to provide temperature and food diversity and is approximately ¼ acre in size.

Approximately 20 pieces of large woody debris (LWD) with root wads, 20 pieces of smaller debris and slash, and native boulders were used to create 4 unanchored LWD habitat structures.  The LWD structures were pushed in to the bank and covered with native boulders to provide ballast and ensure the structures will not move during high flows.  The pond entrance is a 15 foot long narrow channel approximately 15 feet wide at the existing ground surface and two feet wide at the base.  The confluence channel meets Lawrence Creek at an acute angle to avoid sedimentation and is tucked behind an existing engineered log jam built by PWA in 2014 to provide an attractive eddy for easier fish access during high flows.

Leg 1 Instructor: Keith Lackey, HRC Aquatic BiologistKeith_SH

Keithy Lackey currently works for Humboldt Redwood Company as the Aquatic Biologist, monitoring the habitat conditions in 44 salmon & steelhead-bearing stream reaches on nearly 210,000 acres of private timberlands in Humboldt County. He serves as the director of the HRC sediment laboratory in Scotia, which processes water samples from 18 automated sampling stations property-wide and has worked in fisheries and aquatic habitat monitoring on the north coast since 2004. Keith earned a B.S. in Wildlife Management with a minor in Fisheries Biology from Humboldt State University. Keith is an avid outdoor enthusiast has enjoyed a lifetime of fishing, hunting, backpacking, and boating.

Leg 2 – Visit a Spawning Reach

The group will view a spawning reach with the hopes of seeing active spawning coho, perhaps even the elusive spawning steelhead and evidence of Chinook spawning.

Tour Leader Eric Stockwellericstockwell

Eric Stockwell is a lifelong resident of Humboldt County who has turned his obsession for anadromous fish and their habitats into a focus for his current work as a guide and salmon surveyor.  When the ocean is flat or the rivers are green you will find Eric on missions to help his clients land special catches from kayaks while at the same time receiving his thoughts on environmental consciousness, conservation, and thoughtful harvest.  Much of the rest of the time, Eric is on the landscape pursuing his true passion for observing migrating and spawning adult salmon and steelhead and the features associated with them.  According to Eric, his wife and two teenage children accept him for the fish-head that he is!

Leg 3 – Lower Van Duzen

The group will stop at the lowest reach of the Van Duzen to learn more about the processes, both manmade and natural that move gravel as well as how the fish use these features to achieve their ultimate destination.

Humboldt Steelhead Days, Van Duzen River Delta Talk by R. Klein:

Deltas are some of the most dynamic components of river networks. The Van Duzen River delta is no exception, changing with virtually every winter stormflow. Depending on how high flows shape the delta, it can present challenges for upstream migration of adult salmonids, as Scott will describe. Almost every spring, flow recession exposes a low flow channel that bifurcates across the delta before joining with the Eel River, splitting the discharge among several ‘distributary’ channels and thereby reducing flow depths over riffles. During drought conditions, flow ceases altogether as what little flow remains seeps into the coarse delta gravels.

River (or ‘fluvial’) gravel is an important resource for humans as well as for fish, and instream gravel mining has been but one of a host of factors affecting the Van Duzen River for a long time. Gravel mining has the potential to severely degrade salmon habitat if great care is not taken in designing gravel extraction methods that minimize harmful effects, or if simply too much gravel is harvested in any give year or series of years. To better inform the mining industry as to sustainable methods and volumes, the County of Humboldt Extraction Review Team (CHERT) was formed in the 1990s to provide scientific oversight of mining in the County. I and three other river scientists have been on CHERT since Day 1, focusing first on the Mad River, then later, on all mining from Humboldt County Rivers. I will present a brief history of the Van Duzen delta’s geomorphic evolution and the role that gravel mining has played in helping migrating salmon find their way upstream.

Tour Leader Scott Downie, retired CDFW biologistscottdownie

Scott retired as a Senior Environmental Scientist Supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in 2014.  He has worked on salmon and steelhead management, habitat restoration, and watershed analysis for over thirty years.  The last decade of his career with CDFW, he managed a multi-disciplinary, large scale watershed assessment program that investigated the status of watershed processes and conditions of salmonid catchments the length of coastal California.  A series of assessment reports were produced and are available (see: coastalwatersheds.ca.gov), including the Van Duzen and other Eel River system subbasins.

He is a native of Humboldt County and grew up fishing and/or guiding on the SF Eel River and other north coastal streams, beginning as a youth prior to the flood events of the mid-twentieth century.   Over the years, he has seen much change occur and recur in the Eel and its tributaries as land use and natural forces combine to continually alter the lands and streams of the system at several scales.  Now with more time to fish, Scott likes to travel to fly fish, especially for tarpon.  At home, he  is on the river most days either angling, or simply enjoying the interactive energy of the catchment and its streams.

Click here for more info on Emergency Fish Passage Project on the Lower Van Duzen River, 2001-2016 

Tour Leader Randy Klein, retired hydrologisteel-tour-randy-klein-at-grand-canyon

Randy Klein is a hydrologist with over three decades of experience working on issues centering on watershed management, surface water hydrology, erosion and sedimentation, and environmental restoration. He retired from Redwood National Park (RNP) in 2013, after 32 years conducting applied research into wildland hydrology, erosion and sedimentation processes, large woody debris dynamics, restoration of salmonid habitat, estuarine restoration, watershed restoration effectiveness, and effects of land use on turbidity and suspended sediment loads.

While working part-time at RNP, Randy also consulted as a professional hydrologist for a spectrum of clients and projects, including governmental agencies, private landowners, and non-profit organizations on projects related to instream gravel mining, timber harvest, and causes and effects of drought. He participated in litigation as an expert witness on numerous lawsuits concerning hydrology and erosion.

Now enjoying semi-retirement, Randy has more time on the water, but continues to remain active in collection and dissemination of scientific data and elevating public awareness of watershed processes and sustainability.

Leg 4: Lower Eel River at Fortuna

As we close the day, the group will view the majestic Eel River from the levee banks in Fortuna. Tales from 2016-2017 Chinook surveys in comparison to recent years.

Leg 5: Eel River Brewery

Share your fish stories over a beer and some pub food at the Eel River Brewery!


January 28, 2017
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