The McCloud River is one of California's aquatic jewels. Located near the top of California, north of the Sierra Nevada and at the southern end of the Cascade Range, the McCloud snakes its way down a scenic canyon beneath the rugged slopes of 14,000-foot Mount Shasta. The cool waters of the river roil with life. In the spring, clouds of emerging insects dance across the waters as they hatch, and trout are driven to fits of feeding frenzy. The McCloud has been a fisherman's paradise ever since its original inhabitants, the Wintu Indians, speared and trapped salmon and steelhead as the fish made their seasonal journeys from the sea.
Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
The Conservancy's initial objective for the McCloud River Preserve was to protect native fish and the watershed in which they occurred. An extensive biological study indicated that a portion of the preserve could be opened to carefully managed public use, including catch-and-release fishing. Two and a half miles of the river were opened to the public in 1976; the remainder of the preserve is managed as a natural area and a locale for scientific research.
What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
Research projects have ranged from analyses of trout populations to a study that attempted to document the presence of the elusive wolverine by baiting stations with various animal carcasses and using an automatic camera to photograph the animals it attracted. Because improving the health of the watershed is one of our main conservation goals, the Conservancy also monitors native species and water quality.
Concerned about the effects of logging and road-building along some of the McCloud's tributaries, the Conservancy has monitored the river's water quality by recording water temperature, suspended and settled sediments, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Staff ecologists also collect and identify aquatic insects, which provide food for many fish and other animals and are themselves a good indicator of water quality. Some native species are sensitive to slight changes in the chemical makeup of a stream and will disappear if their environment changes.