When POST acquired 903-acre Butano Farms in 2012, the creek coursing through the Pescadero property had seen better days. In the 1900s, humans had altered its path, straightening the creek and clearing it of wood to make way for roads, agriculture and other development. The creek’s flow quickened, and fish and other wildlife struggled to find refuge. It also deepened, leading to higher banks and a deep gully while sediment piled up downstream in the Pescadero Marsh, limiting passage for fish.

These conditions cause a creek to disconnect from its floodplain. During a big storm, creeks should rise and spill their banks, slowing the water and dropping nutrient-rich sediment into surrounding lands. Floodplains are essential because they give water a place to spread out and help mitigate flooding downstream. Wood in the creek also creates more complex habitat for salmon to find rest, spawn and complete their life cycle.

Watch to learn about the importance of floodplains and the work being done to restore Butano Creek:


In 2016, we joined forces with the San Mateo Resource Conservation District (RCD) to revive critical sections of Butano Creek and reconnect it with over 100 acres of its historic floodplain. Now, the creek can spill its banks, reawakening an active wetland where wildlife is thriving.

Taking the Next Step

Recently, the RCD — with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Wildlife Conservation Board, and San Mateo County — took their efforts a step further. They continued their work at POST- owned Butano Farms, improving additional sections of Butano Creek. The RCD created a four-acre area along a section of the creek that is designed to flood throughout the winter. They added logs and other wood structures to slow down the flow, increase habitat diversity for fish and help activate the historic floodplain.

Before and after images show the progress in reviving floodplain habitat (Click to enlarge!):

This work is vital for steelhead trout, California red-legged frogs, San Francisco garter snakes and, especially, endangered coho salmon. Pescadero, which in Portuguese means “fishing town,” is a community known for its salmon. The road to habitat-level restoration is lengthy — it took decades for the creek to lose its balance. Likewise, it will take decades before the salmon population is back up. In the meantime, our project partners are making steady progress in the right direction by releasing spawning adults and juvenile coho salmon into the watershed.

Benefits for Farms

Restoring the creek will benefit farmers, too. Material excavated while widening the creek was used to build up the level of nearby crop fields, reducing the threat of flooding. What’s more, this project will include expanding a nearby pond, which offers essential water storage. Rather than drawing water from Butano Creek in the dry season when fish need it most, farmers can make use of the pond’s reserve.

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POST’s work to protect and restore landscapes like this make these crucial, long-term efforts possible. With plenty of care and the right interventions in place, Butano Creek can return to its rightful splendor. It’s a win for coastal residents and coastal ecosystems alike.

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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