Big Creek is the only watershed on the Central California Coast dedicated to natural resources research. The upper segments of Big Creek and Devils Canyon are pristine and located on public lands in the Ventana Wilderness. The lower segments of Big Creek and Devils
Canyon flow through the 4,000-acre University of California’s Big Creek Reserve. Downstream of the UC Reserve, the creek flows into the Big Creek State Marine Reserve in the Pacific Ocean, which was recently expanded from 1,200 acres to 12.35 square miles. Big Creek was not studied by the Forest Service, however, conservationists believe that it is free flowing and possesses outstanding values.
Native American use of Big Creek goes back a least 6,500 years. Shell middens along the creek can be as much as 14 feet deep, indicating a long history of use. In addition, the remains of historic homestead sites still exist, like those of Gamboa and Boronda.
Scientific - The Ventana Wilderness, UC Big Creek Reserve, and Big Creek Marine Reserve
together provide unique opportunities for natural resources research from the Coast Range crest to
the coast and offshore habitats in the Pacific Ocean. The Big Creek watershed offers diverse vegetation types and habitat, including redwood forest, ponderosa pine/mixed hardwood forest, canyon live oak/fir forest, coastal scrub, manzanita and chamise chaparral, and sycamore/riparian forest that support numerous wildlife and plant species. One survey of Big Creek revealed 344 species of plants representing 42 percent of all California plant families. Reserve research identified four newly discovered species of moths and one new walking stick (insect) species. The creek supports a healthy run of threatened Central Coast steelhead and is fed by more than 23 named springs.
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