One of SPAWN’s most ambitious habitat restoration project yet, the “Lagunitas Creek Floodplain and Riparian Restoration Project” was able to re-create lost floodplains and native riparian forest for one of California’s most important populations of endangered coho salmon and threatened steelhead trout, as part of an effort to reverse the decline of the species statewide. 

In partnership with the National Park Service, SPAWN restored floodplains along Lagunitas Creek that had been lost to development. In total, over 13,000 cubic yards of fill and concrete was removed from the riparian corridor that had restricted the creek and reduced the amount of floodplain habitat. Through removal of the fill and cement retaining wall, side channel, alcoves, and floodplains were created to offer important opportunities for coho salmon to spend time feeding and rearing during high flows. This project also installed numerous pieces of large woody debris — some of which were anchored to boulders, others were unanchored, and some were living. These large floodplains, side channels, and large woody debris structures helped achieve off-channel habitat and water quality goals. This project resulted in the creation of both perennial and seasonal side channels, which are not only home to coho salmon and steelhead, but also provide habitat for California freshwater shrimp, California red-legged frog, and myriad other wildlife species.

This project was funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, State Water Resources Control Board, National Park Service, and Turtle Island Restoration Network. Engineering and design was provided by Environmental Science Associates and construction was done by Hanford ARC and SPAWN.

Project Impact


Endangered California freshwater shrimp observed


Acres of new floodplain habitat created


Cubic yards of imported fill removed from creek habitat

Project Background

When Sir Francis Drake Boulevard was built, thousands of pounds of fill was pushed into the floodplains of Lagunitas Creek, burying critical habitat to the last remaining run of endangered Central California Coastal coho salmon. The West Marin towns of Tocaloma and Jewell, once located alongside this mile-long stretch of stream and floodplain forest, were once tourist destinations but have since been abandoned and left in disarray, impacting the nearby creek ecosystem. To return the creek back to its natural state, SPAWN removed 40,000 cubic yards of imported fill and 650 linear feet of armored banks and cement retaining walls from critical salmon habitat.

Before and after photos show how a dilapidated ghost town full of debris was transformed to a water-receiving floodplain with side channels that will provide shelter and spawning grounds for critically endangered coho salmon.
Lagunitas Creek Floodplain & Riparian Restoration Project

Bringing Back the Salmon

Watch the Short Film

Project Timeline

Phase I was completed in 2018 and Phase II was completed in 2019. SPAWN continues to maintain and monitor the restoration sites. 

Project Updates & Resources