Nature Friendly: A river runs through us
by Carol Carson
Jun 12, 2014 | 1450 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Interpreter Daniel Williford of Henry Cowell Redwood State Park loves to teach all ages the secrets of the watershed. He will be leading a walk on June 21. Submitted photo
Interpreter Daniel Williford of Henry Cowell Redwood State Park loves to teach all ages the secrets of the watershed. He will be leading a walk on June 21. Submitted photo
I am so glad to announce that this year the San Lorenzo Valley Water District has again awarded me a grant for six “Watershed Nature Walks.” Our first guided walk will feature Daniel Williford, Henry Cowell State Park interpreter, and Laurie Egan, stewardship coordinator for the Coastal Watershed Council.

The last time Williford guided our group through the riparian corridor of the San Lorenzo River, I received so much grateful feedback. For instance, one attendee wrote, “I am a teacher and this walk was invaluable to familiarize me with the great wealth we have at Henry Cowell. Daniel Williford conveyed so much interesting information in an engaging and lively way.

“ I took copious notes about the trees, plants, animals and general history of the area. These notes will be very useful in preparing lessons for my students as well as inspiring them for nature walks we can take as a class.”

Williford is a consummate educator to people of all ages. One of his favorite projects every year is the Salmon and Trout Education Program (STEP) which started in the county in the 1980s as an effort to educate young students to understand the importance of healthy watersheds.

The operation soon began its affiliation with the Monterey Bay Salmon and Trout Project, a group whose main goal is the restoration and preservation of native runs of anadromous salmonids, like coho salmon and steelhead trout, in our streams.

Together, the two organizations have provided steelhead eyed eggs for classroom incubation, hosted field trips and conducted training seminars for educators. In fact, the first STEP training program started with a small group of teachers in the San Lorenzo Valley School District. Today more than 50 classrooms participate.

“When we get those eggs, we have created a temporary habitat in an aquarium in the Nature Center for about 30 days until they’re ready to be released into the San Lorenzo River.” Usually it’s a time of great celebration. But not this year. This year’s crippling drought halted the project for probably the first time in STEP’s history.

“It’s too soon to see what the effects of the drought will be on the river. I’m still seeing baby mergansers. I’m still hearing the kingfisher. I’m still seeing the invertebrates. This year we did see the steelhead swimming back up river to spawn,” Williford said.

More than 70 people showed up in March at Highlands Park to share their vision of the San Lorenzo River with Laurie Egan and the staff of the Coastal Watershed Council and the adjunct San Lorenzo River Alliance. The San Lorenzo River Alliance is a Santa Cruz County-wide coalition focused on revitalizing the health of the San Lorenzo River and transforming this critical natural resource into a safe and welcoming community destination.

One of their most important projects is monitoring county waterways and they are always looking for volunteers. I had so much fun when I did it — going under hidden bridges and other places I didn’t even know existed and feeling very “scientific” with all my little tubes.

Egan, Williford, and I will be leading the walk at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 21, at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The walk is free. For more information, contact me at

Carol Carson is a writer and Certified California State Master Naturalist.

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