This land functions as a nature preserve and an outdoor classroom and laboratory.
Dye Creek Preserve This land functions as a nature preserve and an outdoor classroom and laboratory. © TNC

Places We Protect

Dye Creek Preserve

California

An expansive, volcanic landscape of blue oak woodlands and rolling wildflower fields.

Near the northern end of California’s Central Valley lies the 37,540-acre Gray Davis Dye Creek Preserve, a refuge encompassing untilled valley grasslands and rugged Lassen foothills. Protecting virtually the entire Dye Creek watershed and a diverse array of life, these wild lands are the centerpiece in a mosaic of properties safeguarding wildlife migratory pathways over land, in the water, and by air.

Blue oaks endemic to California dominate the preserve’s sun-baked hilltops, staying green through the rainless summer and providing a vital food source for woodpeckers and black bears alike. Winter storms high in the Lassen region push Tehama black-tailed deer, the state’s largest migratory deer herd, down to the preserve’s foothills and valley floor, where the herd finds forage during the winter and spring.

Three million years ago, volcanic lahars fanned out across this area and turned to rock; water subsequently carved out canyons where creeks now flow. Dye Creek’s riparian corridor supports a diverse array of native plants and animals, including the foothill yellow-legged frog (a California species of special concern) and the western pond turtle (the only remaining native aquatic turtle in the state). Along the preserve’s southern border flows Mill Creek, an important spawning stream for steelhead, federally threatened spring-run Chinook salmon, and fall-run Chinook salmon.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site

Dye Creek lies in the heart of the Lassen Foothills region, a largely unfragmented 900,000-acre landscape where the local ranching economy complements the Conservancy’s conservation efforts. The Preserve serves as a site for the research, development, and demonstration of ecological management practices that can be shared with privately owned ranches in the region.

Conservation-compatible Land Management

Dye Creek Preserve protects and manages TNC’s conservation priorities, is a working cattle ranch, has a hunt club, and allows managed public use. The Conservancy manages the property under a long-term lease agreement. All grazing and hunting revenue is reinvested in preserve improvements and restoration, demonstrating the virtuous cycle of land protection and conservation-focused management.

Grazing and prescribed burning on the preserve maintain a moderate level of disturbance that mimics natural disturbance cycles. Research supports the idea that mimicking natural disturbance helps control invasive species, thereby maintaining biodiversity in the region.

Hunting is a sustainable, traditional activity in the area as well as the primary means of controlling invasive feral pigs and turkey. Pigs in particular are a concern for both local landowners and the native ecology.

Location

Northern California, about halfway between Redding and Chico, just east of Interstate 5.

Size

37,540 acres

Preserve staff carefully manage public access due to the variety of land uses and research projects across the preserve, and because of the hot weather and high fire danger in the summer.

Each spring and fall, the Conservancy leads public hikes in the Dye Creek canyon, the preserve’s 1,000-acre outdoor classroom. Organizations and clubs may contact preserve staff to request access for birding, hiking, star parties, and other outreach activities. Environmental education training days are periodically offered to local teachers who wish to bring their classes here. Adults interested in volunteering may inquire with preserve staff about becoming a volunteer docent.

For more information about visiting the preserve, contact us at (530) 527-4261.

Make a Difference in California

Together, we can achieve transformative change on a scale that’s attainable—for the Dye Creek, for California, and for the world.