Cache Creek (Sacramento River)

Cache Creek (Sacramento River)
Cache Creek
Rivière la Cache
Cache Creek, Lake County section, California
Country United States
State California
Regions Yolo County, Colusa County, Lake County
Source Clear Lake
 - location southwest of Clearlake, California
 - coordinates 38°56′10″N 122°38′35″W / 38.93611°N 122.64306°W / 38.93611; -122.64306 [1]
Mouth Cache Creek Settling Basin
 - location east of Woodland, California
 - elevation 30 ft (9 m) [2]
 - coordinates 38°41′24″N 121°41′30″W / 38.69°N 121.69167°W / 38.69; -121.69167 [2]
Length 87 mi (140 km)
Basin 1,139 sq mi (2,950 km2)
Discharge for Yolo, CA
 - average 533 cu ft/s (15 m3/s)
 - max 41,400 cu ft/s (1,172 m3/s)
 - min 0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)

Cache Creek is an 87-mile-long (140 km)[3] stream in Lake County, California, Colusa County, California and Yolo County, California. The South Fork begins at Clear Lake in Lake County, roughly parallels State Route 20, and turns south at the junction with State Route 16 in Colusa County. The North Fork presently begins at Indian Valley Dam and Reservoir in Lake County, joining the South Fork near the highway junction at Wilbur Springs. Bear Creek, the main tributary, travels along a scenic canyon from Wilbur Springs to Woodside, paralleling State Route 16.



The name of the water body comes from Hudson's Bay Company trappers who cached their furs along the Sacramento River and smaller tributaries, one of which became known to them as Cache Creek. One of their camps, recognized by early settlers as French Camp, was situated in a grove of oaks on the north bank of Cache Creek one mile (1.6 km) east of the present town of Yolo, California. Cache Creek was originally known to the Hudson's Bay Company trappers as Rivière la Cache.[4]


The Cache Creek Dam on the South Fork of Cache Creek, five miles (8 km) downstream from Clear Lake, was built to increase Clear Lake's capacity and to regulate outflow for downstream users of Cache Creek water. The dam was later modified to include a 3 MW hydroelectric plant. The stream has a relatively small capacity, less than a quarter of the amount the dam is able to release. There is a rock ledge a mile and a half downstream of Clear Lake, called the Grigsby Riffle, near the bridge on State Route 53. This sill restricts the amount of water that can flow through at that point. The limited capacity of the stream means that it takes a very long time to drain excess flow from Clear Lake, increasing the chance of flooding around the lake. The bottleneck is seen as a backup to prevent flooding downstream and Yolo County is prohibited from increasing the capacity of the channel by the Bemmerly Decree. The Capay Diversion Dam, 49 miles (79 km) downstream from the Cache Creek Dam, diverts water for distribution throughout Yolo County using a 175 mile (280 km) network of canals.

Water rights and flooding protection have been in dispute between Yolo and Lake Counties since the late 19th century. The Yolo County Flood Control & Water Conservation District holds appropriative rights for up to 150,000 acre feet (190,000,000 m3) per year from Clear Lake. Current treaties attempt to ensure a balance between the needs of the two counties, although high-water conditions can cause temporary disagreements.

A large part of the creek within Lake County is designated a Wildlife Area by the state of California and the federal Bureau of Land Management, on which vehicles are prohibited but hiking, primitive camping, and hunting are allowed. The South Fork presently hosts a growing population of the rare tule elk, plus winter populations of bald eagles. The ruggedness of the area tends to ensure its isolation from human activity. In 2006 the United States Congress designated 27,245 acres (110 km²) of the area as the federally protected Cache Creek Wilderness.[5]

The Indian Valley Dam on the North Fork of Cache Creek forms Indian Valley Reservoir. The dam's primary purpose is water storage for irrigation, but a 3.3 MW hydroelectric plant was built to take advantage of the falling water.

Whitewater boating on Cache Creek includes kayaking, rafting, canoeing and innertubing which are popular in the summertime using the water released from the dams for downstream agriculture.

Nominally a tributary of the Sacramento River, Cache Creek now only reaches it during extremely wet years due to damming and diversion of the stream's water. Degradation of the channel caused by invasive plants, such as Arundo donax and Tamarix spp., as well as gravel mining has left no suitable habitat for Chinook salmon and steelhead to spawn, even if there is enough water. Consequently, there are no longer any anadromous fish species in Cache Creek.

State Wild and Scenic River

Cache Creek was added to California's Wild and Scenic Rivers System in October, 2005[6] which protects 31 miles (50 km) of the river from construction of new dams or diversions. Assembly member Lois Wolk introduced AB 1328 in 2005 which received support as well as opposition. New dam construction on Cache Creek was being considered in 2002 by the Yolo County Water District, the agency that had built the Indian Valley Dam and the present dam on Cache Creek.[7]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Cache Creek
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Cache Creek Settling Basin
  3. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 10, 2011
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Logson, Terre (10-12-05). "Cache Creek Bill Signed". Sacramento River Portal and Library website. Lake County Record Bee. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  7. ^ "Cache Creek Bill Progresses Despite Opposition". Headwaters (Friends of the River) (Spring 2005): p. 14. 


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