The Cottonwood Creek watershed is located west of the Sacramento River and is the largest undammed tributary in the upper Sacramento River basin. Located in Shasta County, Cottonwood Creek reaches peak altitude at around 7,860 feet. The Cottonwood Creek watershed area encompasses approximately 938 square miles and Cottonwood Creek stream length is 68 miles. The watershed rides along the northern portion of California’s Central Valley, touching parts of the North Coast mountain range and the Klamath Mountains. Cottonwood Creek, like many other watersheds in the Central Valley, has a history of gold mining operations. These operations commonly had adverse effects on the watershed by resulting in the discharge of sediment into the watershed. Approximately 70% of the land in this area is privately owned and used for housing, timber, and ranching. This watershed is home to viable populations of spring-run Chinook and steelhead. Unfortunately, these populations are being disturbed by several different stressors. These include but are not limited to loss of floodplain and riparian habitat, low flow, elevated water temperatures, and lack of spawning habitat.
Restoration for these stressors is crucial for the survival of these important populations of Chinook and steelhead.
Cottonwood Creek is included on the federal Clean Water Act list of impaired water bodies due to toxicity and pathogen contamination. Spring run Chinook salmon are state and federally listed as threatened. Fall run Chinook salmon are federally listed as a species of concern. Steelhead are federally listed as threatened. Preventing the extinction of salmon and steelhead requires restoration of priority habitat conditions (listed in the Snapshot Restoration webpage) and consistent, funded monitoring of these fish populations.