The Fall River originates from California’s largest network of cold-water springs. Located approximately 50 miles to the east of Mount Shasta, resting atop an immense lava field known as the Modoc Plateau, the Fall River Valley should be bone dry: but it’s not. Instead, dozens of interconnected cold-water springs gurgle to the surface creating an oasis that serves both people and nature.
California’s Largest Spring-Fed River
In total, the myriad spring systems feeding the Fall River generate over 1,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) of cold, clean water. That’s 890 million gallons per day! For perspective, 1,500 cubic feet per second converts to about one million acre feet per year: enough water to sustain over a million families of four for up to one year. With this much water, you could irrigate all the grain in California for over a year. You could also satisfy the entire city of San Francisco’s water needs for over a year.
Impact on California Water Supply
All of California requires just over 40 million acre feet of surface water storage to quench its annual thirst. California’s largest reservoir—Shasta Lake—holds about 4.5 million acre feet. Most Northern Californian anglers know that the McCloud, Upper Sacramento, and Pit River resupply the majority of water flowing into Shasta Reservoir. But few realize that 85% of the summer base flows in the Pit River actually originate in the Fall River. At one million acre feet per year, the Fall River, not the Pit, supplies an astounding 22% of the storage capacity in Shasta Reservoir.
In river ecology, it’s not just the quantity of water that matters, it’s the quality. The Fall River watershed, at over 600 square miles, creates more than 30 miles of ideal cold-water habitat for wild trout, Shasta crayfish, rough sculpin, and a variety of native aquatic plants and macro-invertebrates. With a gradient of less than a foot per mile, the slow, constant, cold current has the potential to support well over 5,000 wild trout per mile. The springs that feed the river also create wetlands and other habitats that support a popular rest stop for waterfowl on the Pacific flyway.
Despite its profound quantity of cold, clean water, the Fall River does not receive adequate attention for natural resource management. Consequently, in 1999 the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (CRWQCB) listed the river as an impaired waterway due to “excessive sedimentation” and erosion caused by human sources. Adding to this situation, an invasive aquatic plant—Eurasian milfoil—is overtaking the lower river, which exacerbates the sediment problem by impeding the natural flows needed to flush the system.
Protect for future generations the extraordinary recreational and ecological values of California’s largest spring creek wild trout fishery
- Protect over 30 miles of cold water, spring-fed creek habitat for wild trout.
- Restore wild trout populations to more than 5,000 fish per mile.
- Protect over 1 million acre feet annually of cold, clean nutrient rich spring water for recreation.
- Engage the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences in monitoring and assessment to prioritize threats and objectives
- Carry out 2 year pilot program to reduce the spread of invasive Eurasian watermilfoil
- Build coalition of Fall River stakeholders including PG&E, DFG, Fall River Conservancy, and the Fall River Resource Conservation District
- Work directly with landowners and agricultural operators to reduce impact of cattle, irrigation water, and water diversions on habitat and wild trout populations
- Provide public access to the river for anglers, bird watchers, and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts