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The Steelhead Superhighway

The Steelhead Superhighway

Steelhead trout is a threatened species and depends on strong river flows to migrate upstream. When winter rains come high flows in the Carmel River open the Carmel River Lagoon to the ocean. This is when adult steelhead can migrate upstream. 

Adult Steelhead swim up the river to spawn; laying their eggs in the clean gravel found in fast moving water.

Juvenile Steelhead typically found in the river. 


Over the next one to two summers, juvenile steelhead grow strong, then change into smolts as they swim down the river and through the Carmel River Lagoon to the Pacific Ocean where they mature into large, silver-colored adults before returning to the Carmel River to continue the cycle.

Sometimes though, Mother Nature’s power erodes the stream banks of the river. This erosion can threaten homes and infrastructure. When MPWMD must stabilize a streambank, it strives to incorporate steelhead habitat features such as large wood and rootwads.

Storm damage from the Winter of 2017 shows erosion and trees collapsing into the river. If left unchecked, this erosion could propagate downstream and threaten homes.

During the dry months in the Summer of 2018, MPWMD staff and contractors worked to stabilize the bank by building a cribwall. 

The finished project included a cribwall planted with willows and black cottonwoods, as well as five rootwads to help improve steelhead habitat.

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