Steelhead spotted in Maacama Creek Watershed

Steelhead spotted in Maacama Creek Watershed

While on patrol along Modini Mayacamas Preserves’ McDonnell Creek, which contributes to the ecologically important Maacama Watershed, Land Steward Tomas Ruiz made a happy sighting of two good-sized steelhead trout swimming in one of the deep pools of the creek. Tomas recalls this being only the second time in seven years that he’s spotted steelhead in this creek. Jim and Shirley Modini, who gave their 1,700 acre ranch to ACR in 2012, would have thrilled at this news!

McDonnell Creek is the primary source of the 8-mile long Maacama Creek, which flows through the Alexander Valley / Hwy 128 corridor and eventually empties into the Russian River about 4 miles east of Healdsburg.

The Sonoma Resource Conservation District website includes excellent information about the Maacama Watershed: Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are present in the Maacama Watershed. There was an exciting discovery in the fall of 2011 when wild Coho Salmon were observed by the Department of Fish and Game during a snorkel survey. Wild coho had not been observed in the watershed since 2001. Steelhead are present in limited numbers throughout the watershed. Actions to improve habitat for coho and steelhead are focused on increasing riparian habitat to improve water quality and temperature, removing migration barriers, creating more instream habitat and reducing sediment in the stream system.

In addition to salmonids, there are other endangered and threatened species that have been located within the watershed including Syncaris pacifica (CA freshwater shrimp), Rana draytonii (CA red-legged frog) and Rana boylii (yellow-legged frog).

While ACR’s stewardship of all of our preserves includes science-based best practices that can involve state and local collaborators, permits, processes and long lead times, the Modini’s unwavering daily dedication to wildlife on this spectacular section of the Mayacamas Mountain range continues to serve as our inspiration.

Discover Modini Mayacamas Preserves

The land now known as ACR’s Modini Mayacamas Preserves is a merger of two properties: the Modini Ingalls Ecological Preserve and the Mayacamas Mountains Sanctuary. The former was transferred to ACR in a bequest by ranchers Jim and Shirley Modini, avid land conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts. The Modini-Ingalls family owned the property—primarily used for cattle grazing—since 1867. The Mayacamas Mountains Sanctuary was formerly owned by the National Audubon Society. 

The Preserves total 3,000 acres on the slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains above Highway 128 in the Alexander Valley and feature a rich blend of biologically diverse habitats, including oak woodlands, pine forests, grasslands, chaparral, riparian forests, natural springs, wild streams and serpentine outcrops that support several rare plants (download preserve plant list here).

The area is home to deer, black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, grey foxes, nesting golden eagles, northwestern pond turtles, and foothill yellow-legged frogs, as well as many birds. Rare plants on the property include Greene’s narrow-leaved daisy, St. Helena fawn lily, and green jewel-flower. The peaks, ridges, ravines and valleys here are part of three healthy watersheds, which all drain to the Russian River.

The Preserves are also core to 12,000 acres of contiguous habitat in the Mayacamas Mountains that are protected under conservation easements with the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. ACR collaborates with this and other local organizations and agencies in management, research and educational use of the preserves.

Join us on the land

A favorite spot for birding (download our bird checklist here), the Preserves are traversed by Pine Flat Road, a public county road that meanders through the property. Visitors can enjoy the views and birdwatch from roadside pullouts anytime without appointment. Please drive cautiously, as this is a one-lane winding road with limited sight lines.

The Preserves also host public guided hikes, which are posted on our calendar.