Thanks to the new Gualala River watershed signs, travelers on local roads will now know when they enter the watershed, one that spans 300 square miles of Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
Friends of Gualala River (FoGR), a non-profit dedicated to the protection of the river and its watershed, coordinated installation of nine road signs marking the outer boundaries of this region. Within this watershed, all rain and precipitation flows towards the Gualala River on one of its three forks or many smaller creeks.
Jeanne Jackson, Treasurer of FoGR and author of “Mendonoma Sightings” explained, “These watershed signs will bring new awareness to the expanse and extent of the river’s watershed. For instance, one gallon of used motor oil spilled in the watershed can drain down and contaminate one million gallons of water in the river. We hope the new signs will prompt people to be mindful, so the river we love will thrive.”
Historically, the Gualala River has been an important spawning river for salmon and steelhead, all part of the threatened salmonid family. The watershed is also home to dozens of other special status species of animals and plants, including Northern spotted owl, California red-legged frog, Sonoma tree vole, coast lily, swamp harebell, and others. It supports dozens of native trees and huge swaths of forests. Within the watershed lies a spectacular stand of old-growth redwoods that rivals Muir Woods for its tall trees.
The Gualala River is a source of drinking water for the communities of Anchor Bay, Gualala, The Sea Ranch, Kashia and Annapolis. It is also a favorite place for residents and visitors to hike, swim, kayak and fish.
Three-quarters of the watershed lies within Sonoma County and one-quarter in Mendocino County, a total area approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. The headwaters of the Gualala River watershed flow out of a section of the rugged North Coast Outer Range that lies in an arc to the north, east and south.
The stretch of river from where the South Fork meets the main stem of the river through the estuary at Mill Bend to where it flows into the Pacific Ocean is designated Wild and Scenic by the State of California.
A total of nine signs will be installed to mark the watershed. Six will be placed on county roads in Sonoma County and one in Mendocino County. The remaining two signs will be installed on CA Highway One.
Funding had to be secured before launching the $7,300 sign project. The Conservation Fund stepped forward with a $1,200 contribution with Friends of Gualala River supporters covering the balance.
Charles Ivor, president of FoGR, explained, “These signs are part of an educational effort to help the public become aware of the river and what a precious resource it is.”
FoGR members Lynn Walton, Pat Maxwell and Chris Poehlmann actively worked on the project for over two years. Coordinating with four separate transportation departments (County of Sonoma, County of Mendocino, Caltrans District One and Caltrans District Four) added a layer of complexity.
Lynn Walton said, “The FoGR volunteers who have doggedly worked on this project for years will definitely be doing the happy dance on the roadside when the last sign is planted.”
Friends of Gualala River was founded in 1992 to protect the Gualala River and its watershed. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit with tax ID EIN#83-4233346. Visit our website at http://gualalariver.org