Tolay Creek Riparian Enhancement Project

The Tolay Creek Riparian Enhancement Project is a multi-year initiative restoring the native habitat along 2.5 miles of Tolay Creek in a collaborative partnership that will provide restoration of the ecological functioning of the creek beds, youth education and job training.

Adjacent to Highway 121 near the southern border of Carneros, the riparian restoration will focus on the most degraded section of the Tolay Creek, located on the Tolay Creek Ranch. The Ranch connects Tolay Lake Regional Park to thousands of protected wetlands, creating a unique ecosystem of freshwater lakes, creeks and tidal wetlands.

Owned by the Sonoma Land Trust, the Ranch has a variety of unique characteristics including serpentine grasslands, oak woodlands and riparian habitats. Among the species found in these habitats include golden eagles, red-legged frogs, western pond turtles, and northern burrowing owls, as well as the more common coyote, deer, hawks, songbirds and garter snakes.

The southwest corner of the Property contains serpentine soils that offer a vibrant array of native wildflowers every spring. Humans have been present on the property for thousands of years, leaving their traces in many places, from petrogylphs to remnants of the property’s early ranching history.

The transformation of this lower stretch of Tolay Creek is expected to take two years. After the riparian fencing is in place, Conservation Corps North Bay crews will remove the invasive Himalayan blackberry from the creek, cut and plant willow stakes along the creek bed to restore riparian habitat, collect native plant seeds for propagation, and plant 1,600 native shrubs and trees such as native blackberry, coffee berry, wild rose, buckeye and valley oak.

The highly visible Tolay Creek Riparian Enhancement Project (through its proximity to Highway 121), is expected to provide vivid access to the site’s restoration progress, providing an unheralded opportunity to expand environmental educational programs for schools, the community and the public-at-large.