What’s Gone Wrong With Hat Creek?

Last Tuesday, a mob of biologists, hydrologists, CalTrout staff, CalTrout founders and others toured Hat Creek’s Carbon Bridge stretch, and with so much scientific brainpower and historical knowledge in tow, those of us willing to listen learned a lot about the causes driving Hat Creek’s unhappy decline.

In the 1970s, Hat Creek became California’s first Wild Trout water, and accounted for the newly formed CalTrout’s first major win. (A lot of the people who made that happen — names like Richard May, Jim Adams and others — were on this tour.)

In the early 80s — at a time when fish counts were in the 6,800 fish per mile range — a plug of sediment started moving through Hat Creek.

Eventually, it decimated the aquatic vegetation, reducing bug populations and speeding the flow.

Meanwhile, invasive Muskrats burrowed under the banks, collapsing them, leaving behind a wider, shallower Hat Creek.

And yes, other bad things happened.

Fish populations plummeted. And fishermen stopped fishing Hat Creek in droves.

That’s the simple story. (Learn more in the video below.)

The good news is the sediment plug (visible in the upper reaches of Hat Creek in aerial photos as early as 1979) has largely passed the Carbon Stretch, and we’re seeing some small vegetation growth in the upper reaches.

Hat Creek Tour

One of the groups touring Hat Creek.

Much remains to be done, and we’re putting together an article and a video about CalTrout’s extensive Hat Creek restoration plan (courtesy CalTrout’s new videomeister Mikey Wier, whose hiring is a story unto itself — look for it soon).

Back with more on Hat Creek soon.

–Protect & Restore, CalTrout.