The West Fork of the Carson River starts as a small mountain stream flowing out of the Lost Lakes along the Sierra crest near Carson Pass, and meanders down the eastern slope of the Sierra into Hope Valley Meadow. Within the Hope Valley reach, the river has been joined by several smaller tributary streams, and can provide flows able to support the well-known trout fishery in Hope Valley. However, the river in this reach is not currently functioning at its full potential to support self-sustaining wild fish populations and adequate riparian habitat for wildlife. The upper West Fork Carson River is also relied upon as an ongoing source of abundant clean water for downstream users.
At least partly as a result of various historical land uses and ongoing recreational impacts, the stream channel in large portions of Hope Valley Meadow is incised and downcutting the channel, resulting in loss of connection to natural floodplain areas in the meadow. Riparian vegetation is present only intermittently. This in turn results in areas of unstable banks and instream habitat that lacks complexity and provides limited cover for fish and wildlife.
In 2011, American Rivers began leading a multi-partnership effort to assess restoration needs in Hope Valley Meadow and develop designs to improve hydrologic function and wildlife habitat within the meadow. The overall goal of the Hope Valley Restoration Project is to restore the full range of ecosystem services that this highly-visible and well-known meadow has the potential to provide including: natural water storage, flood attenuation, cooling and filtering of water, aquatic and riparian habitat, and recreational values.
Alpine Watershed Group has partnered with Friends of Hope Valley and American Rivers to recruit and train volunteer "Meadow Stewards" who are interested in helping with water quality monitoring, streamflow monitoring and photo monitoring in Hope Valley. Field trainings began in May 2012, with a number of outings and data collection conducted through the 2012 field season. A team of Meadow Stewards has learned to measure river flow using United States Geological Survey approved equipment, and to maintain and download data collected by digital loggers at each monitoring site. Information collected by Meadow Stewards will help to inform the restoration planning process, as well as establish baseline data for surface water characterization before any potential restorations are implemented.
The 2013 Meadow Stewards field season will begin in May/June and continue into fall, as weather and flow conditions permit. We welcome new volunteers! We can provide training for anyone interested in contributing to the monitoring efforts in Hope Valley. Join the Hope Valley Meadow Stewards team and enjoy spending some time working in this beautiful and unique Sierra Nevada meadow, while at the same time gathering valuable information as restoration planning continues.
Chris Katopothis is watershed coordinator for the Alpine Watershed Group