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Fall turns Secret Ravine into salmon hot spot

Even with low numbers, Chinook salmon, steelhead trout spawn at local creek
By: Julie Eng, Special to the Loomis News
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Every year, Loomis residents host a sought-after guest that puts the town on the map. When California salmon make their journey upstream from the ocean, and through the Sacramento River, at the end of the year, many make their way to the Secret Ravine Salmon Habitat in Loomis Basin Regional Park to spawn. Secret Ravine Creek is one of the few streams where fish like Chinook salmon and steelhead trout continue to make spawning migrations. It is also one of Dry Creek’s largest tributaries. According to Dry Creek Conservancy Director Gregg Bates, about 80 percent of Dry Creek’s fish spawn in Secret Ravine — though they come in increasingly dwindling numbers. While in the past the creek has seen thousands of fish spawn in its waters, Bates says last year there was only “a handful.” “One of the reasons to be so happy and careful about the fish that we have is because this is one of the only places left where they can (spawn),” he said. While Secret Ravine has only been an officially protected habitat for about 10 years, the fish have been coming to the creek to spawn for thousands of years. Bates said some attribute the decline in numbers in recent years to climate change. Non-profit organizations such as the Dry Creek Conservancy and Save Auburn Ravine Salmon and Steelhead work to restore and protect creeks like Secret Ravine in the hope of stopping this trend. Peter Moyle, professor of fish biology at the University of California, Davis, and consultant for SARSAS, said conservation efforts have the added benefit of bringing a town together. “Part of the importance of these places is that it gets people involved,” he said. “There’s nothing like seeing salmon in your own backyard to make people get involved in protecting the salmon and streams.” In Auburn, SARSAS and the Dry Creek Conservancy hope to make the Auburn Ravine Creek habitable for salmon. Jack Sanchez, president and founder of SARSAS, said their actions include screening canals that divert water from Auburn Ravine Creek to keep fish from dying in pastures and other agricultural fields. In Loomis, there are several things people can do to contribute to the cause, Bates said. In addition to participating in local fundraising events and creek cleanups, like the Conservancy’s Creek Week each April, residents can make small changes around the house to protect and sustain healthy waterways. “Every individual homeowner and land owner can make a big difference in the way they manage their property,” he said. “One not-quite-so-obvious way is to keep the rain on our property actually on our property.” The large amounts of rainwater that fall on roadways and roofs during storms and that wash down gutters into creeks wreak havoc on natural habitats, Bates said. He suggests using rain gardens and rain barrels to utilize every last drop of water to minimize the amount that ends up in storm drains. Household chemicals can also be hazardous to local creeks. Bates warns against washing oil or chlorine into gutters, as they can be harmful to the natural environment. There are many reasons to keep the creek habitable for wildlife. However, Bates said, “The easiest (reason) is that it’s just a really fun thing to have in your community.” And according to Moyle, the wildlife in the community will benefit as well. Reptiles and birds flourish near well-maintained streams, he said, and as areas like Loomis become increasingly urbanized, it is important to preserve the streams. Salmon enthusiasts can expect the fish with the rain. He advises those who seek a look at the salmon visit the creek in November and December. Until then, the creek remains a shady spot to cool off in Loomis on hot summer days. More information on local creek protection efforts can be found at www.drycreekconservancy.org and www.sarsas.org. Tips for at-home conservation are available at www.riverfriendly.org. -------------------------- WHERE TO FIND THE SALMON Secret Ravine Salmon Habitat is accessible locally in several areas. Blue roadside signs mark the stream’s location. - Loomis Basin Regional Park on King Road - Penryn Road near Secret Ravine Road - Horseshoe Bar Road between I-80 and Laird Road - Brace Road near the intersection of Brace and Barton roads