ContentsPutah and Cache: Lower Cache Creek

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Cache Creek Nature Preserve

Robert Thayer

If you drive a car, own a home, or walk on a sidewalk, you are a consumer of aggregates—sand, gravel, concrete, etc. Aggregates are most often mined in old river channels and flood plains. The entire Central Valley plain is comprised of alluvium, but the coarser aggregates are most often found closer to existing streams or old stream channels. High velocities of water carry larger sediments down from upstream hill locations. As water slows, either from flow rates dropping or flows overtopping banks, aggregates settle out in concentrated deposits. The sixteen mile stretch of Cache Creek between the towns of Capay and Yolo has been extensively mined for aggregates, much of it for use within 30 miles or so of its original place of deposition.

In the past several years, the local gravel industries have responded to increasing concern over environmental impacts of aggregate mining along Cache Creek. The industry and the Yolo County Board of Supervisors jointly sponsored the formation of the Cache Creek Conservancy, a citizen-based oversight committee charged with managing the restoration of the creek. A controversial vote in 1996 on the extent and nature of gravel mining confirmed the wisdom of the Conservancy's establishment. Teichert, one of several aggregate companies operating along Cache Creek, has donated land for a demonstration site for restoration of riparian vegetation and research and education on the creek ecology and cultural history. The Cache Creek Nature Preserve is open to the public one day a month or by prior arrangement with the Cache Creek Conservancy, and volunteers are welcome.

The preserve has several nature trails, a restored wetlands and riparian areas, and an historic barn built prior to the turn of the 19th century. Its Tending and Gathering garden, created in collaboration with the California Indian Basketweaving Association and funded in part by the Rumsey Rancheria, attempts to restore Native American access to traditional materials. It is often difficult for Native Americans to gather plants for food, medicine, or basketweaving; private land is not accessible, public land may require permits, and gathered plants have often been sprayed with pesticides. Most traditional gathering grounds, which may have been tended for centuries, have disappeared. Furthermore, Native Americans have few places to use the management techniques that produce the best material. The Tending and Gathering Garden is meant to be both a source of traditional foods, medicines, and basketweaving materials and a means of researching the impact that traditional Native American management has on biodiversity.

Cache Creek Nature Preserve and other restoration sites along Cache Creek are examples of what can be done to mitigate the effects of aggregate extraction and to help restore the riparian landscapes affected by mining. Although the sixteen-mile reach of Cache Creek from Capay to Yolo is highly disturbed, the restoration of the creek and the preservation of its existing habitat is gathering momentum in among citizens, government, and the gravel industry.

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