The Mattole River is a watershed that covers approximately 62 miles from southern Humboldt County to northern Mendocino County. Communities along the Mattole such as Petrolia and Honeydew experience drastic weather, from intensely hot and dry summers to extreme snow in the winter. Wildlife is abundant along the Mattole, ranging from inland mountain lions to coastal sea lions, and, of course, the salmon that inhabit the river itself. These include Coho and Chinook, and Steelhead trout.
Mattole watershed territory was inhabited by the Mattole and Bear River Indians before Euro-American interruption, according to the “California Language Archive: Mattole” at University of California, Berkeley.
As well as harming the people of the land, the Euro-Americans contributed to the severe decline of salmon as the lumber industry decimated forests for douglas fir trees, and road construction which resulted from the development of residential housing in 1970 caused sediment to shift and change the river, thus interfering with salmon spawning habitats (Buran).
The MRC’s 1995 Dynamics of Recovery, A Plan to Enhance the Mattole Estuary stated the community’s intentions to reforest and upslope-stabilize the Mattole watershed as a response to the declining deep pools and amount of woody debris that provided breeding habitats for Chinook salmon, which reached a severely low count of about 100 in 1991.
Get involved with the community and check out upcoming events! After all, those at the Mattole River watershed do emphasize community consciousness: “We live in a community, a vibrant and sometimes challenging watershed community, a remote rural landscape filled with a diversity of ideas, ideals, and ways of life. We have worked together, and we hope to continue to do so for many years. If you haven’t already, please join us in this very fulfilling work.” But it’s not all hard work! They put on fun activities for the community to raise awareness for life that depends on the watershed, such as live music, art classes, picnics, beer festivities, games, and more.
The Indians of Mattole, an Athabascan coastal tribe, experienced conflict with Euro-Americans as the foreigners struggled to uproot the Mattole Indians from their native land with the intention of “re-homing” them in camps in both Humboldt and Mendocino County (Kroeber 142-143).
There are two main types of salmon in the Mattole River: Chinook and Coho. In 1990, both the Chinook and Coho salmon populations reached a severe all-time low in the Mattole River at about 100 per species due to human interference. These salmon were a staple food of the Natives’ diet (Buran).
The communities along the Mattole River had gained enough support to establish two important activist groups: The MSG (Mattole Salmon Group) and the MRC (Mattole Restoration Council). Together, they combined their efforts in the early 80s to restore the salmon populations, including hatchbox spawning and physical alterations to the river (Buran).
After years of consistent communal dedication to the restoration of this beloved watershed, The Mattole River and Range Partnership, which includes Sanctuary Forest Group, the MSG, and the MRC, continues to contribute to the watershed restoration as it has become such a large part of the community and been implemented into Mattole residential culture. A Summer/Fall 2016 news article by The Mattole River and Range Partnership lists some of their accomplished goals for that season, including the addition of “245 wooden structures added for instream habitat,” “2 million cubic yards of sediment prevented from reaching streams,” and “52 miles of stream made accessible to fish.” Read more about what the MSG and MRC are doing to help the Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead salmon thrive within a healthy Mattole River watershed.
Find out more information about history of the Mattole River as well as current events here!
Page developed by Megan Lombardo, Spring 2017 semester