A female hiker pauses to view the lush grasslands and blue oak woodlands that characterize Dye Creek Preserve and Canyon
Dye Creek Preserve and Canyon A female hiker pauses to view the lush grasslands and blue oak woodlands that characterize Dye Creek Preserve and Canyon © Ian Shive

Places We Protect

Gray Davis / Dye Creek Preserve

California

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

Located in the foothills below Mount Lassen, the 37,540-acre Gray Davis Dye Creek Preserve is an expansive landscape of blue oak woodlands, volcanic buttes, and rolling wildflower fields. The landscape is dissected dramatically by Dye Creek Canyon with its vertical cliffs, clear-water creek, and diverse riparian forests. The forest widens as it leaves the canyon mouth and flows westward, through wetlands, to its confluence with the Sacramento River.

Location

North-central California, about halfway between Redding and Chico, just east of Interstate 5.

Size

37,540 acres

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 Conservancy is actively engaged in community-based conservation efforts. The land serves as a site for the research, development and demonstration of ecological management and restoration techniques, such as prescribed burning. Research and development efforts are conducted in the context of a working ranch, so that methods that are successfully developed may be applied on privately owned ranches.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing

The Dye Creek Ranch came under the management of The Nature Conservancy in 1987 as the result of a 25-year lease with the State of California. The Conservancy has continued to operate the land as a working ranch, leasing grazing rights to a private rancher who manages his cattle with an eye to the health of the environment. Results have been encouraging, and the ranch was named one of the 25 best-managed ranches in the U.S. by a leading livestock publication. The land also functions as a nature preserve and an outdoor classroom and laboratory, promoting cooperative conservation, restoration and community outreach activities.

The preserve's research with grazing and prescribed burning are aimed at maintaining and increasing the diversity of grassland plant and animal communities by discouraging invasive non-native plants. Research at the ranch has demonstrated that controlled burning effectively controls medusa-head and star-thistle, both troublesome, invasive weeds. Conservancy staff, students, and volunteers have also completed an intensive effort to restore streamside habitats along lower Dye Creek. Trees, shrubs and native grasses have been planted and the positive effects of this restoration program are beginning to be recorded. Conservancy staff and researchers are working to secure a large population of foothill yellow-legged frogs in upper Dye Creek.

What to See: Plants

More than 600 plant species are found on the preserve. Approximately 80% of these plant species are native, and 14 species are rare.

What to See: Animals

Many birds - from neotropical migrants to bald eagles - and mammals such as gray foxes, black bears, and mountain lions, follow the creek between the foothills and river. The preserve is large enough to support bears and mountain lions, and it is also winter range for the largest migratory deer herd in California. The expansive blue oak woodlands provide habitat for raptors, neotropical migrant and cavity nesting birds. Several songbird species whose populations have been severely reduced in the Sacramento Valley - the yellow-billed cuckoo, the yellow-breasted chat, and the blue grosbeak - were recently observed along lower Dye Creek.

Public access is limited 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. Individuals or organized groups may attend scheduled guided tours from late fall through late spring only. To obtain information about these tours, contact us at:

The Nature Conservancy of California
201 Mission Street, 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
Phone: (415) 777-0487

Seasonal volunteer and intern opportunities are also available. For more information, please contact (530) 527-4261.