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Santa Rosa Creek, which flows from the foothills east of Cambria out to the ocean at San Simeon Beach, is among the most productive steelhead streams in San Luis Obispo County. The cool clean water and relatively good habitat conditions make this creek very important for the recovery of our local steelhead trout population which is endangered.

In 2006, the Cambria Community Services District grew concerned about a small section of Santa Rosa Creek where it flowed through their Fiscalini-Ranch Preserve near Highway 1 in Cambria. This eroding stream bank was depositing soil into the stream and degrading the spawning habitat for steelhead. The eroding bank was also along the route of a main sewer line that had already been repositioned once because of the movement of the stream. The Services District wanted to be sure the pipe was not damaged. The Land Conservancy was brought in to restore the stream bank in order to benefit endangered fish while also protecting public infrastructure.

To restore the stream bank, Land Conservancy staff stabilized the bank and stopped the erosion by installing boulders along the toe of the bank. The boulders were placed in a trench about 4 feet deep below the surface of the water to prevent a wash-out. Live willow saplings were planted in the rock trench and the bank was re-sloped at a gentler angle to support native plants. Last, an erosion control blanket was installed over the disturbed slope and native trees and shrubs were planted. Once established, the plant roots hold the soil in place while the leaves create a natural cover that helps protect the top soil from heavy rains.

Today, thanks to these restoration efforts, the stream bank is no longer eroding and the native plant vegetation is doing most of the stabilizing work. The population of steelhead trout in Santa Rosa Creek, however, is still low and remains listed as a federally endangered species. The Land Conservancy continues to lead a regional effort aimed at restoring steelhead habitat and monitoring the species for recovery.

Go There

The restored section of Santa Rosa Creek can be explored from the Santa Rosa Creek Trail West in Cambria. This 1.5 mile trail is a popular hiking spot for Cambria residents and visitors. Trail users can learn more about the fish in the stream and The Land Conservancy’s restoration efforts through educational signage along the trail.

The trailhead is located near the Waste Water Treatment Plant by Wilson Blvd. Bridge. From Highway 1, exit at Windsor Blvd. Look for sign and trail entrance on the left.

Project Partners

  • Cambria Community Services District
  • California Conservation Corps

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