Butano Creek had fallen out of balance. Over the past century, people had moved the creek out of the way of their roads, farms and homes – straightened it and cleared the wood out.

When they were finished, Butano Creek looked more like a ditch than a creek. The water moved so fast it was hard for fish and other wildlife to find shelter. And, disconnected from its floodplain, it couldn’t spill its banks and drop the sediment it was carrying.  Instead, all that sediment was pilling up downstream in the Pescadero Marsh.

When we protected 903-acre Butano Farms in 2012, we took responsibility for over a mile of Butano Creek. It was up to us to heal this portion of the creek and help push the watershed back in balance.

We worked to fix Butano Creek

Butano Creek Restoration - POST
At the end of our restoration work, volunteers helped pound willow stakes into the banks of Butano Creek, which have since resprouted and are helping stabilize the creek bank. Photo: Matt Dolkas

In the fall of 2016, we partnered with the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District (RCD) to revive this section of Butano Creek (find the full story here). If you’re not familiar with their work you should check out their website. They help landowners in San Mateo County improve their land for the benefit of fish, farms and people.

Our goal in partnering with the RCD was to make the creek function the way it used to, the way nature intended. We added a number of structures at critical points within the creek to shallow the creek channel, slow the flow of water, and direct floodwaters and sediment onto the floodplain, thereby reconnecting over 100 acres of its historic floodplain.

Yeah, you might need to read that again. That’s right – we reconnected Butano Creek with over 100 acres of its floodplain. Watch the video below from a rain event last winter were Butano Creek, for the first time in decades, spills its bank and reconnects with its floodplain:

And it worked!

Today we’re watching as Butano Creek comes back to life.

The structures we installed are now catching sediment, logs, and other woody debris creating much needed habitat for fish and wildlife within the creek. And, now reconnected to its floodplain, the creek can spill its banks and has reawakened an active wetland where wildlife can thrive.

This work wouldn’t have been possible if this land was anything but protected open space. As open space, we were able to give Butano Creek the room it needs to be healthy, to move freely and change with time.

Our partners at the RCD continue to diligently monitor the changes within Butano Creek. It took decades to push the creek out of balance and it will take time for it to recover.

Stay tuned as we learn more about our revival of Butano Creek.

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About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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