To Our Ojai Community:

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we recover from the damage from the Thomas Fire on our trails. In the coming months trails will likely open and close depending on rain and changing trail conditions. Click here for current information and trail notifications »

Ventura River Steelhead Preserve

Please note: This nature preserve is NOT YET open to the public. In the future we plan to include a conservation center, offering a place to enjoy some of the most wild parts of the Ventura River.

Education at the Steelhead Preserve

Thanks to the Department of Fish and Wildlife and California Coastal Conservancy in July 2011, the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy acquired an additional mile of the Ventura River, which offers the river’s best refuge for the endangered South­ern California steelhead, as well as a home for 29 other rare, threatened or endangered species. This new Ven­tura River Steelhead Preserve also has historic buildings, which will be part of the larger conservation center, hosting scientists, school children and the public. Although this preserve offers outstanding opportunities for observing, studying and enjoying nature, a significant amount of work needs to be completed to prepare it for public use. The work includes securing a change of use permit from Ventura County.

The Ventura River Steelhead Preserve provides the following for the communities of Ventura and the Ojai Valley.

  • Brings the community one step closer to the goal of protecting the entire Ventura River
  • Protects rare wildlife and Ventura River water
  • Preserves an intact cultural landscape
  • Educates children and adults’ understanding of the watershed,  its animals and plants
Executive Director, Greg Gamble, sharing the vision of the Steelhead Preserve at the acquisition party.

Executive Director Greg Gamble shares OVLC’s vision of the Steelhead Preserve at the acquisition party.

Educational Opportunities

The Ventura River Steelhead Preserve is the only place in the Ventura River basin and perhaps in Ventura County that offers at the same location indoor and outdoor opportunities to learn about a functioning southern California river. OVLC’s goal is to give students the opportunity to get “knee deep” in the study of the ecological facets of the Ventura River in the morning, and then come inside during the hot afternoons continuing their study in a classroom setting. The general public will have an opportunity for passive and sensitive recreation like birding or attend events at the Conservation Center.

Protects Rare Wildlife

Ventura River Steelhead Preserve

Ventura River Steelhead Preserve, Photo by Les Dublin

The Ventura River Steelhead Preserve protects rare wildlife, including the endangered Southern California steelhead. As recently as the mid 1900s an estimated 5,000 steelhead spawned each year in the Ventura River. Recently, steelhead runs have been reduced to less than 100. There is hope and a plan for recovery. The deep cool pools on the Steelhead Preserve provide a critical refuge for the migrating steelhead when other parts of the river dry up.

Helps Save the River

With the acquisition of the one-mile long Ventura River Steelhead Preserve, roughly 6 miles of the 16 mile long Ventura River are now permanently protected. Along these 6 miles and as envisioned for the remaining 10 miles, the OVLC and its partners are creating a Ventura River Parkway with the primary goal of connecting people with a healthy, functioning river via trails and riverside parks. Our vision includes the removal of Matilija Dam, the acquisition of lands in the floodplain of the river and replacing exotic species such as giant reed (Arundo) with native vegetation.

Protects Cultural Resources

Future Conservation & Education Center by Les Dublin

Future Conservation Center, Photo by Les Dublin

The Ventura River Steelhead Preserve protects the core of the historic Holling­sworth Ranch. The Hollingsworth family cared for this land for decades and one of the family’s more well-known members, former Ventura County District Attorney James Hollingsworth, built the property’s historic rock house in 1935. Our goal is to preserve the ranch compound as a Conservation Center where students, scientists and the community can observe, and learn about the outstanding natural and cultural resources on the preserve.