Learning Center

Meadow Restoration Success Story on the Plumas National Forest

The Plumas National Forest, private landowners, and Feather River Coordinated Resource Management (FR-CRM) group partnered from 2002-2004 on a successful large-scale stream and meadow restoration project on Last Chance Creek in northeast Plumas County. Nearly 8 miles of Last Chance Creek was restored, improving more than 1,300 acres of Sierra Nevada mountain meadows. Approximately 70% of this area is on Plumas National Forest Land, with the remaining project area belonging to a private rancher. This ranch was subsequently purchased by The Nature Conservancy and the land is currently managed by Feather River Land Trust.

This project was funded by a $980,000 grant awarded to FR-CRM in August 2000 through the CalFed Ecosystem Restoration Program, a joint effort by the State of California and the federal Bureau of Reclamation to restore natural floodplain function on California streams in order to improve the water retention capacity of properly functioning riparian meadows. The grant was administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.


Meadow Restoration Success StoryPrior to restoration, Last Chance Creek was a deeply incised gully with raw, eroding banks as much as 15 feet high. These eroding banks cannot sustain riparian vegetation that would cool the stream temperature and provide habitat for trout and other aquatic species. The vast quantities of sediment eroded as the stream channel deepens and widens washes downstream, impacting water quality and aquatic habitat. With the meadow water table lowered to the gully elevation, meadow riparian grasses are converted to sagebrush.


Meadow Restoration Success Story


Meadow Restoration Success StoryLast Chance Creek has been diverted to a new channel that is situated out of the gully and on top of the meadow.  The gully is obliterated with a series of groundwater-fed ponds and earthen plugs.  Re-connection of a stream channel with its meadow floodplain results in multiple benefits.  Erosive flood flows are no longer confined to a gully with rapidly eroding banks.  Rather, flood flows are spread over the entire floodplain, removing stress on the new Last Chance Creek stream banks.  The new stream channel is narrower and deeper, providing cooler stream temperatures for aquatic species. Stable stream banks hold healthy riparian vegetation communities, providing improved aquatic habitat and further cooling water temperatures.  Flood flows are absorbed by the meadow floodplain, reducing the peak size of floods and releasing water to the stream channel later in the flow season.  With the reconnection of the meadow with the ground water table, acres of sagebrush are converted back to native grasses.

Meadow Restoration Success Story