Caples Ecological Restoration Project

Modern photo of Caples creek watershed with denser trees


Project Description

The Forest Service is conducting restoration activities within the Caples Creek Watershed on the Placerville and Amador Ranger Districts of the Eldorado National Forest.

The project includes:

  • Re-introducing fire back into the landscape to restore a vital ecosystem process in the watershed after nearly a century of fire exclusion.
  • Aspen restoration activities; such as, conifer reduction and temporary fencing on approximately 25 acres within and surrounding existing aspen stands.
  • Meadow restoration activities; such as, conifer reduction, temporary fencing, and a half mile reroute of an existing hiking trail on approximately 25 acres (some of which overlaps with aspen stands) within and surrounding existing meadows.

The project is intended to improve forest health and fire resilience, meadow and aspen ecosystems, and wildlife habitat.

Why is this important?

The Caples Creek watershed is the primary water supply for more than 110,000 people and businesses that rely upon El Dorado Irrigation District for water. This watershed has been recommended for wilderness designation because it contains remnants of old growth forest and provides high quality back country recreation and wild fisheries.


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The project is within the Caples Creek Watershed, north of Highway 88, in the vicinity of Jake Schneider Meadow, Government Meadows, Kirkwood Lake, and Caples Lake. The watershed is 30 miles east of Placerville California and encompasses portions of Alpine, Amador and El Dorado counties. The project area ranges from approximately 5,800 feet in elevation to 10,080 feet at the highest peak. Given this vast range in elevation, there are significant changes in vegetation type predominantly composed of Sierran mixed conifer, red fir and subalpine and interlaced with meadows, lakes and barren rock.

Districts: Amador Ranger District, Placerville Ranger District

  • Project Map (pdf) – original scoping map from 2015


Partners: Eldorado Irrigation District (EID) and Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC)

In partnership with the Eldorado National Forest, EID received grants from SNC to support planning and implementation of the Caples Ecological Restoration Project. A Memorandum of Understanding between EID and the Forest allowed the Forest to be reimbursed for project costs. 

Environmental Planning

Public scoping was initiated in 2015, and two decision memos were issued in 2016.  The decision was made in two parts because a portion of the project area required consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding potential effects on the Sierra Nevada Yellow Legged Frog which is a threatened species found at high elevations. 

Prescribed Fire Planning

Vegetation Monitoring & Research

Public Information

Caples Declared Wildfire

After prescribed burning was in progress for 11 days, the Caples Prescribed Fire was declared a wildfire on October 10, 2019, due to weather conditions and fire behavior that were no longer meeting prescribed fire objectives. The Caples Fire was declared 100% contained on November 1, 2019.


Related Presentations

April 2017 National Cohesive Strategy - Reno, NV