The Gualala River is on the northern coast of California and flows from a sparsely populated mountainous watershed with an area of about 298 square miles (77,182 ha) to the coast at the community of Gualala, California. Precipitation in the watershed varies from 38 inches (970 mm) per year at the coast to 70 inches (1,800 mm) inland. Timber production is the predominant land use. John Sutter’s militia captain Ernest Rufus is credited with naming the river, possibly after the Pomo Indian word Walali meaning “where the waters meet”.
The river provides recreational, municipal, and industrial water supply for the community of Gualala and wildlife habitat including cold freshwater habitat for fish migration and spawning. The most important problem for the watershed is excessive erosion and river sedimentation. The area has a high degree of natural erosion caused by a continuous history of movement along the San Andreas and Tombs Creek faults. However, logging and roads have greatly increased the amount of sedimentation in the river. High water temperatures are another significant problem affecting salmon spawning habitat. Logging has removed large streamside trees that provided shade and reduced the amount of large woody debris that create natural pools.
The Gualala River Watershed has produced timber since before the turn of the last century and the basin has one of the longest records of logging compared to other regional watersheds. The watershed has been subject to three eras of active land use including old-growth redwood logging throughout the lower alluvial basin areas from 1868 to 1911, tractor logging of remaining old-growth conifer stands in the central reaches of the watershed from 1952 to 1968, and cable logging of second-growth coniferous stands from 1990 to the present. Extensive logging and road building have contributed to erosion and mass wasting, producing a legacy of increased sediment loads severely impacting aquatic habitat in the Gualala River and its tributaries. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Gualala River here: