Deer Creek (Tehama County, California)

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Deer Creek
Arroyo de los Venados, Rio de los Venados[1]
Deer Creek Falls and fish ladder, near Hwy. 32.
Deer Creek (Tehama County, California) is located in California
Deer Creek (Tehama County, California)
Location of the mouth in California
CountryUnited States
RegionTehama County
CitiesChilds Meadows, Vina
Physical characteristics
SourceNorth slope of Butt Mountain
 ⁃ locationLassen National Forest
 ⁃ coordinates40°12′44″N 121°22′31″W / 40.21222°N 121.37528°W / 40.21222; -121.37528[2]
 ⁃ elevation7,320 ft (2,230 m)[3]
MouthSacramento River[4]
 ⁃ location
One mile west of Vina, California
 ⁃ coordinates
39°55′35″N 122°04′54″W / 39.92639°N 122.08167°W / 39.92639; -122.08167Coordinates: 39°55′35″N 122°04′54″W / 39.92639°N 122.08167°W / 39.92639; -122.08167[2]
 ⁃ elevation
180 ft (55 m)[2]
Basin features
 ⁃ rightLost Creek, Gurnsey Creek[5]

Deer Creek is a 60-mile-long (97 km)[3] southwestward-flowing stream in Northern California that flows through Tehama County, California. It is an eastside tributary of the Sacramento River. As one of only three remaining Sacramento River tributaries supporting native runs of the genetically distinct Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, it is a stronghold for this state and federally endangered fish as well as other salmonids.[6]

Beaver dam on Gurnsey Creek, just below Childs Meadows, Tehama County, California. Credit Brock Dolman, OAEC
Cascades frog and beaver-chewed stick on Gurnsey Creek, tributary of Deer Creek, Tehama County, California. Credit Brock Dolman, OAEC


Now Deer Creek flows through the Ishi Wilderness, named for Ishi, the last member of the Native American Yana or Yahi people who had originally lived in the area. The Spanish had named what was later translated to Deer Creek, Arroyo de los Venados or Rio de los Venados, after the immense deer herd that lived in the region.[1] Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus) still thrive in the Deer Creek watershed and are a part of the large Tehama deer herd that at one time numbered 100,000.[7]

Watershed and course[edit]

Deer Creek and its tributaries drain 229 square miles (590 km2).[7] The creek flows roughly southwest for most of its 60-mile (97 km) length.[3] Its headwaters are in Lassen National Forest at an elevation of 7,320 feet (2,230 m) on Butt Mountain in the southern Cascade Range, several miles (9 km) west of Lake Almanor.[3] The creek's upper reaches are through meadows and dense forests. The Lost Creek tributary sources in Lake Wilson and joins Deer Creek along Highway 89, as does Gurnsey Creek (also known as North Fork Deer Creek). After leaving these meadows and broader valleys, Deer Creek flows through a steep rock canyon until it reaches the Sacramento Valley. About 11 miles (18 km) after entering the valley, it joins the Sacramento River at an elevation of only 180 feet (55 m), about 7 miles (11 km) south-southeast of the small city of Tehama, California.

Two natural falls are located in the upper Deer Creek watershed: Lower and Upper Deer Creek Falls. Lower Deer Creek Falls has a functioning but sub-standard fish ladder. Upper Deer Creek Falls represents the natural limit of anadromy for spring-run Chinook salmon, and although it also has a fish ladder, it is no longer opened in the spring as it was historically. While the upper watershed is public land primarily in the Lassen National Forest, there are large private ranches in the mid- and lower-elevation areas.[6]

The creek has four diversions in its lower reaches, all occurring after the stream flows into the Sacramento Valley. Three use diversion dams and one uses a ditch. There are no storage dams on the creek. Except for the diversions, Deer Creek is still relatively natural, largely because the upper two-thirds of the creek flow through protected land in the Lassen National Forest.

Ecology and habitat[edit]

In addition, Deer Creek is a refugial stronghold for spring-run Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), and the stream supports Central Valley anadromous steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), fall-run Chinook salmon, late-fall-run Chinook salmon, and Pacific lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus).[6] Historically, spring-run Chinook salmons populations averaged around 2,800, but numbers began to decline in the 1980s to the low hundreds.[7]

The Sierra Meadows Partnership is studying the ecological impact, including carbon storage related to montane meadow restoration, including on the Childs Meadows portion of Gurnsey Creek, an upper Deer Creek tributary. Scientists Kelli Franson and Kristen Podolak are evaluating the changes in the meadow after restriction of cattle from the riparian zone, along with construction of beaver dam analogues (BDAs).[8] Species of particular concern in the region include the great gray owl (Strix nebulosa), willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii), and greater sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis), all dependent on riparian habitat which has been largely degraded or lost due to overgrazing or development in California.[9] A 2015 bird survey by Point Blue Conservation Science found four to ten times more meadow birds species richness and abundance in natural versus degraded meadows, including Gurnsey Creek's Childs Meadows and Carter (Creek) Meadow in the Deer Creek watershed.[10] The 290-acre (117 ha) Childs meadow is one of the few remaining strongholds for willow flycatcher and the Cascades frog (Rana cascadae) which is now absent from 50% of its former range in California.[11]

Vernal pools are a relatively unique habitat in the lower watershed, reduced to 5% of their original range in California. A large vernal pools complex exists on Nature Conservancy Vina Plains Reserve.[7]


Deer Creek is also an excellent fishing location. It is one of a decreasing number of streams in California that still provides habitat for the native trout and migrating salmon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Erwin G. Gudde (10 February 2010). California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. Univ of California Press. pp. 410–. ISBN 978-0-520-26619-3.
  2. ^ a b c "Deer Creek". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  3. ^ a b c d U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map Archived 2012-04-05 at WebCite, accessed October 19, 2017
  4. ^ "Place Names" (PDF). Tehama County Department of Education. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Gurnsey Creek". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  6. ^ a b c Instream Flow Evaluation: Temperature and Passage Assessment for Salmonids in Deer Creek, Tehama County. Report No. 17-2 (Report). Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Wildlife. October 1, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d Deer Creek Watershed (PDF) (Report). Sacramento River Watershed Program. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  8. ^ Kristen Podolak; Rodd Kelsey, Sierra Harris and Nathan Korb (May 20, 2016). "Why The Nature Conservancy is Restoring Streams by Acting like a Beaver". The Nature Conservancy. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
  9. ^ "Can Restored Meadows Fight Climate Change? California Seeks to Find Out". Audubon Magazine. July 19, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  10. ^ Ryan D. Burnett and Brent R. Campos (February 2015). Avian Monitoring of Northern Sierra Meadows (PDF) (Report). Point Blue Conservation Science. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  11. ^ Sarah M. Yarnell (2015). Beavers, Meadows and Climate Change (Report). UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. Retrieved October 26, 2017.

External links[edit]