One of the most charismatic species on The Preserve lives in its streams. Steelhead trout are anadromous; after maturing in the streams they swim out to sea and after one to four years return to spawn in freshwater. Unlike other salmonids, steelhead may make this circuit several times in their lifetimes. Steelhead require clean, cool water and access to cobble riverbed areas to spawn. Unfortunately, development along the Central California Coast has destroyed enough habitat to pressure steelhead into an endangered status.
Five of the creeks on The Preserve bear steelhead: San Jose Creek, Potrero Creek, Robinson Canyon Creek, Garzas Creek, and San Clemente Creek. They provide protected areas where female steelhead dig their redds, or nests, to lay eggs.
Steelhead are sensitive to the amount of sediment in the water. Sediment impedes navigation, and fine sediment causes a decline in juvenile fish’s growth and survival rate. When the Conservancy assumed direction of The Preserve’s land, ranch roads criss-crossing the property “hemorrhaged sediment” into its creeks, to quote one of the Conservancy’s senior ecologists. One of the Conservancy’s first goals was to improve water quality and reduce the amount of disruptive sediment arriving into waterways.