Category Archives: Uncategorized

Managing Cordova Creek: Staying ahead of Star Thistle

A native to Mediterranean Europe, the yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) made its way to California during the mid-19th century, likely via Chile through contaminated alfalfa mixes. With the lack of natural herbivores, the star thistle has the ability to create monotypic stands along disturbed landscapes. Their voracious nature eliminates and prevents other plants from growing, which degrades ecosystems and acts as a physical barrier for animal and human movement in wild spaces. Currently, it is estimated that star thistle occupies over 15 million acres of California’s floristic zone, and Cordova Creek, along with the American River Parkway, is no exception.

An unseasonably wet winter ‘16-17, hot summer, and the recently disturbed soil from Cordova Creek’s construction, all aligned to create an ideal habitat for star thistle to thrive in. As a result, the population exploded to an unprecedented level that the Water Forum and our partners were unprepared to fully manage. However, we are using the knowledge that we learned from last year’s experience to guide our current management strategies.

Starting in April, work crews have diligently hand-pulled and removed thousands of young star thistle growing throughout Cordova Creek. Despite their hard work, star thistle persistently exists in a few problem areas. To help address these problem areas, the Cordova Recreation & Park District,  Soil Born Farms, and the American River Flood Control District kindly agreed to each donate a day of mowing at Cordova Creek. Mowing star thistle can be extremely effective as a removal technique if timed correctly – once the plants have matured, bolted, and are at ~10% flowering. Mowing during this critical period prevents seeds from developing, and, without rain, the plants will be unable to regrow and flower this season.

We appreciate the help of Cordova Parks and Recreation, Soil Born Farms, and the American River Flood Control District as we manage and control star thistle. We are confident that the combined efforts will ensure the success of Cordova Creek and the immense amount of ecosystem services that it provides to the community!

For more information on how to manage star thistle in your own area: Yellow Star Thistle Management Guide

A Day on the Farm

Posted on Thursday, May 31st, 2018

A Rock-ing Day on the Farm

All photos in this post are copyright Joan Cusick Photography.

Over 1,000 visitors explored Soil Born Farms during what’s become a regional favorite event, “A Day on the Farm.” Soil Born annually coordinates this event to celebrate the seasonal opening

of their farm stand and allow visitors a chance to learn more about the farm and its surrounding environment, eat local food, play, and create.

The Water Forum hosted a booth at Farm Day, to highlight Cordova Creek and emphasize its abundant resources and unique history. As you might recall, from 2014-2017 the Water Forum collaborated with multiple organizations, including


Soil Born, to naturalize Cordova Creek which had previously been a cement-lined drain. Though only a year since completion, the native plants continue to grow and mature, and a charismatic beaver has built a dam and made Cordova Creek its home. Though the Water Forum and  Sacramento County Regional Parks are coordinating the maintenance in the early years, Soil Born Farms is poised to be the stewards of the creek.

In addition to raising awareness of the creek, the Fellows lead a children’s rock painting

booth. The perpetually crowded booth soon became enveloped in rocks of all colors and designs – unicorns, basketballs, marbleized, narwhals, and more! They were able to paint rocks to keep and to donate to Cordova Creek. Since Cordova Creek is only a year old, many of the plants are still quite young. To ensure that they grow big and strong, we want to make sure that they are visible. The rocks that the community helped decorate will be placed around the native plants as a border. The colorful, painted rocks will make them stand out so that they do not get accidentally stepped upon, pulled out, or mowed.

Next time you visit Cordova Creek, be on the lookout for colorful rocks sprinkled along the trail!

Sutterville Elementary School Science Night

Posted on Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Sweet Science at Sutterville Elementary School Science Night 


Amid hand-made solar system displays, shoeboxes transformed into rainforests, caverns, colorful coral reefs, and other miniature habitats, and a few slime-making booths, our Water Fellows Kat and Cassie set up a table focused on Chinook salmon life cycle in the Lower American River.

Sutterville Elementary School hosts a large Science Night for students and their families annually. The night is a chance for the students to show off their science projects and learn from local scientists. Kat and Cassie spent the evening talking with students explaining the salmon lifecycle, the importance of gravel, and the Water Forum’s restoration projects in the Lower American River. After listening to the fellows speak, the students had the opportunity to make their own candy redds, using chocolate rocks, gummy fish, and nerds to symbolize salmon eggs! They also had the chance to observe preserved salmon eggs and their development, kindly lent to the Water Forum for the night from the Nimbus Hatchery.

The event created a space to spark curiosity and an early interest in science for the young learners, provide examples of scientific careers, and to ameliorate understanding of how the world fits together so that we can all care for it accordingly.

Change Order

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018

Date: Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 10:23 AM
Subject: Nimbus Dam – Change Order

Please make the following release changes to the American River at Nimbus:

Date            Time             From (cfs)        To (cfs)
5/01/18       0000             2,500                2,400
5/01/18       0100             2,400                2,300
5/01/18       0200             2,300                2,200
5/01/18       0300             2,200                2,100
5/01/18       0400             2,100                2,000

Comment: conserve storage

Issued by: Peggy Manza

Inspiring the Next Generation of Biologists

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Inspiring the Next Generation of Biologists at the American River

March 23, 2018

Bright and early, nearly 60 first grade students from Dewey Elementary school began to bounce off the buses and race towards the roaring American River. Armed with their very own biologist kits, the first graders begin to explore the river and gain a hands-on experience of what the life of a field biologist entails!

For the fourth year the Water Forum, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CBEC, and C.A. Department of Fish and Wildlife, seeks to provide an immersive learning opportunity for local first graders to connect with their environment and to support an early interest in science. Through a series of stations where the students participate in a dissection, substrate sorting and red building, seining, bug identification, and water quality testing, the students learn:

  1. What fish make the river their home and what those fish look like
  2. The diet of a young salmon
  3. The criteria for good spawning habitat
  4. The criteria for good habitat for young fish
  5. How to keep the river healthy for salmon and other living things

The Water Forum looks forward to continuing this partnership and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards!