Big River

By Lisa Bolton

2015 Big River Salmon Run_Race StartFinish Pano.jpg

The salmon conservation game requires a varied toolbox. Of course, you have to ensure sufficient streamflows and restore degraded habitat—but you also have to generate public interest and investment in salmon and steelhead, and in local projects that help these hard-pressed fish.

In other words, sometimes you have to have some fun, with salmon and steelhead recovery as the excuse.

Over the past ten years, TU’s North Coast Coho Project (NCCP) has played a lead role in delivering millions of dollars to restoring habitat, removing migration barriers, and improving water quality for coho salmon and steelhead north of the Russian River. However, after the construction seasons wraps up each fall, the project is all about the fun factor.

That’s why, on November 14, the NCCP hosted the second Annual Salmon Run & Walk near Fort Bragg. This year, the event was a lively out-and-back race along the Big River Haul Road in Mendocino Headlands State Park. Race options included a 10K run, a 5K run, a 5K fun walk, and a kids 1K.

Eighty-six participants (including ten children) braved unseasonably cold temperatures to raise $3,000 for salmon restoration in the Big River, through TU’s partnership with California State Parks.

Specifically, proceeds from the 2015 Salmon Run & Walk will benefit a restoration project on Manly Gulch, a tributary to the Little North Fork Big River, in Mendocino Woodlands State Park. This project will restore passage for salmon to over 4,000 feet of stream by realigning the channel, installing a new bridge, and improving instream habitat conditions for coho and steelhead.

NCCP director Lisa Bolton organized the event, “with a lot of help from sponsors and friends.” Several of TU’s conservation partners in this region pitched in, including the Salmon Restoration Association, which purchased t-shirts for race participants, and The Nature Conservancy, which ponied up a generous donation. KOZT Radio was an advertising sponsor.

Mara’s Coffee House, Sean Leland State Farm Insurance, Epic Graphics, Harvest Market, Golden State Racing, Mendocino High School-Interact, and the California Conservation Corps all made important contributions to ensure the 2015 Big River Salmon Run & Walk would be successful.

Bolton said, “The second Annual Salmon Run & Walk was a race, but the competition was almost beside the point. Salmon restoration is a cause that unites people from all walks of life. The strong support for this event, especially given the really chilly conditions, proves that.”

Lisa Bolton was the former Manager of TU's North Coast Coho Project.

All text photos courtesy Keith Wyner.