Willow Creek is a tributary to the lower Russian River in coastal Sonoma County. The Willow Creek watershed drains an area of approximately 8.7 square miles, nearly all of which is owned and managed by State Parks as part of Sonoma Coast State Park. The lower Willow Creek valley within the park contains significant, undeveloped wetland and riparian habitats. The upper watershed is primarily forested land, with intermixed grasslands.
Approximately 4,600 feet upstream from its confluence with the Russian River, Willow Creek has filled in with sediment. In certain segments of the creek, no bed or banks remain. These conditions limit, and will continue to limit, the upstream migration of spawning salmonids to periods when the valley is flooded. Downstream migration of juveniles in spring is, and will continue to be, blocked.
The filled channel condition of Willow Creek upstream of the second bridge is attributed to channel modifications that were begun before 1953, as well as increased sediment yield from land use practices in the watershed. Prior to 1953, Willow Creek was relocated, straightened, and probably widened, apparently to facilitate agriculture. Such channel modifications often create a condition that traps sediment as is illustrated by the fact that unmodified reaches of Willow Creek upstream and downstream are not filled with sediment to the same degree. The increased sediment yield from the watershed is attributed to road construction, timber harvesting, and livestock grazing beginning before 1900. Sediment supply derived from landslides and surface erosion has decreased since the 1960s.
Information about the Restoration of Willow Creek
Willow Creek Water Quality Monitoring
The Willow Creek Water Quality Monitoring Program began in the early 2000s when Stewards became active in assisting State Parks with restoring fish passage in the Willow Creek watershed. Volunteers were trained and began monitoring three locations in the watershed at regular intervals. Parameters include pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity and other tests that determine optimum habitat for salmonids.
Documents Related to the Willow Creek Watershed
The Willow Creek Watershed Management Plan 2005
Willow Creek Channel Analysis - 2005
Jan. 29, 2004 - Willow Creek public meeting results
List of Technical Documents for Willow Creek
Willow Creek Geotechnical Study - 2008
Willow Creek 30% Design Memo - 2008
80% Designs for 2nd Bridge
Mitigated Declaration for Willow Creek Bridge Project - 16.4 mg file
Facilities and Access
Access to lower Willow Creek is from Willow Creek Road off Hwy. 1 just south of the bridge that crosses the Russian River in Jenner (at the Sizzling Tandoor Restaurant). Facilities include two campgrounds, Pomo Canyon Environmental Campground and Willow Creek Environmental Campground.
Access to the upper portion of Willow Creek is through a permit only public access program administered by Landpaths. To find out about orientations for this program, please contact Landpaths at www.landpaths.org.
Map of the Trail System in the Willow Creek Area
Willow Creek Environmental Camp - Willow Creek Campground is closed due to service reductions. Stewards hopes to get it open soon.
11 primitive campsites with fire rings, picnic tables and pit toilets. Campsites are within 1/4 mile from the parking lot and there is no running water. The only State Park campground on the Russian River, sites are shaded by willows but close to a large beach for swimming and fishing. Blue heron, egrets, osprey and occasionally river otters can be seen by the river. To protect the wildlife, no dogs are allowed. These sites are not on the reservation system.
Pomo Canyon Environmental Camp - Pomo Canyon Campground is closed due to service reductions. Stewards hopes to get it open soon.
20 campsites with fire rings, picnic tables, pit toilets and running water nearby. Campsites are within 1/4 mile from the parking lot, one is disabled accessible. Camps are set in a beautiful redwood grove among the ferns. A three mile trail to Shell Beach takes off from the campground, crossing seasonal streams and rising up into the grassland with marvelous views of the river and finally the ocean. To protect the wildlife, no dogs are allowed. This campground is not on the reservation system.