The final phases of the channel realignment project in Winters Putah Creek Nature Park are almost complete! Started in 2011, the Putah Creek River Parkways project was designed to narrow the low-flow channel along approximately one mile of creek, cut fill from steep banks, and move it into a form such that the creek now has a walkable riparian area, functional floodplain, and improved wildlife habitat. After several years’ delay, work began in early September on the Phase III section, situated in the middle of the park between Phases I and II; and Phase IV, situated between the downstream end of phase II and I-505. In Phase III, the creek is now flowing through a smaller, faster-flowing channel that aligns with the meandering flow of the channel in adjacent phases, and portions of the old creek channel are now a pond-like backwater section. This variety of habitat types will support a wider array of wildlife species. For instance, Western pond turtles (Emyss marmorata) can be observed sunning themselves on logs in the backwater, and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) can take advantage of the cooler temperatures, gravelly substrate, and faster flowing water of the main channel to build redds and spawn successfully.
Winters students and community volunteers with Putah Creek Council, as well as interns at the Solano County Water Agency have been working together to install hundreds of trees, vines, sedges, grasses, and other perennial flowering plants along the banks of the creek. These plants will initially help with bank stabilization by rooting into the soil during the first rainy season. As they mature into a multi-tiered and complex riparian forest, they will provide valuable wildlife habitat for years to come.
We encourage the community to visit Winters Putah Creek Nature Park to see this habitat enhancement project as it progresses, or get involved by signing up to help at a planting event on our Event Calendar. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Chinook salmon as they make their way up the creek this month to spawn!