Places We Protect

Sacramento River


Wild riparian habitat along the Sacramento River.
Sacramento River Wild riparian habitat along the Sacramento River. © Grant Johnson

Without these riparian forests, California would lose some of its most precious resources.



California would lose some of its most precious resources without the forests that line the Sacramento River.

A third of the state’s water supply would be compromised, numerous threatened species might vanish and California’s largest salmon population, already in peril, could disappear altogether. The pleasures of hiking, fishing and birding once enjoyed by millions of visitors to this wilderness would become a footnote in the history of the region.

In 1988, as little as 2 percent of these riparian, or riverside, forests remained. The Nature Conservancy undertook what was then the largest riparian restoration project in the U.S.

The Sacramento River project—focusing on the 100-mile stretch between Colusa and Red Bluff—has made significant progress toward reversing this negative trend.

Through groundbreaking conservation strategies, the Sacramento River forests have resurged—with portions completely restored to their original richness. At the same time, more space has been made available for public use.

A Safe Haven

More than 250 species live alongside the Sacramento. The area is now able to support 135 species of native birds including bald eagles and tropical migratory songbirds on stopover flights.

Visitors may also spot otters and beavers, many species of reptiles and amphibians, as well as a variety of fish, such as the Chinook salmon. Recently, large mammals have even begun to reappear around the Sacramento.

With the effects of climate change, the riparian forest will become even more crucial to a diverse range of species. The river maintains a moist environment, offering a refuge from the intensifying aridity of the surrounding ecosystems.

A Landmark Project

Collaborations between The Nature Conservancy and numerous public and private partners have sparked creative conservation approaches in the Sacramento River region.

For example, we developed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a levee plan for Hamilton City that would simultaneously protect residents from floodwaters while creating more space for wildlife.

Innovative projects like this have preserved and grown the habitats of more than 50 threatened and endangered species. They have helped protect the water supply that is so vital to residents and to valley farmers, who grow one-quarter of America’s produce. Finally, they have created more recreational space for visitors to enjoy for years to come.

How You Can Help

There is still much more work to be done to protect the Sacramento River forests. Please consider donating to the California program or becoming a member of The Nature Conservancy.

Sacramento River Project Accomplishments

The Nature Conservancy and its partners have

  • Planted well over a million seedlings, using a broad mix of native plants
  • Created the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge—an important stopover for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway
  • Protected a corridor of 24,000 acres of land, with a 2015 goal of 30,000 acres
  • Restored 6,000 acres of riparian habitat
  • Increased the amount of land available for public use
  • Created education and incentive programs that encourage farmers to use the land in more environmentally beneficial ways
  • Inspired public agencies and private individuals to join in these important efforts 



Explore our work in this region

Birding, hiking, boating and fishing are just a few of the activities to enjoy along the Sacramento River. Visit the Sacramento River.