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 »

Rice Creek Returns Home After 90 Years

By on December 6, 2013 in News, Press

Rice Creek is a seasonal tributary of the Ventura River that drains the hillsides above the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy’s majestic Ventura River Preserve. Hikers in Rice Canyon can see the modest creek, and know that it supports a variety of native plants and wildlife. However, the lower sections of the small Creek have seen rough times over the last 90 years since it was cut off from its natural route and held captive in a man-made ditch. In the 1920’s, the stream was diverted to make room for an orange orchard. When the stream was moved, the hydrologic and ecological connections between the Creek and the Ventura River were severed. In total, ¾ of a mile of the former stream was left dry, most of it to be completely removed.


Conservation Director Brian Stark and Preserve Manager Rick Bisaccia catch the first flow of Rice Creek

Fast forward to November of 2013, and the Creek begins to see a new future. A project managed by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy resulted in Rice Creek being reunited wit
h its historic route. A section of the old levee was breached and the artificial channel was filled. The Creek was gently turned toward a low swale along the historic route and over 16,000 native plants were installed to bring the creek back to life. The only thing missing in November was water.

Our last set of heavy rains completed the restoration cycle by bringing the first flow down the historic channel in over 90 years. The channel saw an impressive flow during the heavy rains and we are now seeing the process of channel re-formation. The restoration effort took a soft approach to channel re-formation. We simply moved the flow back onto the historic route and introduced the vegetation needed for natural stream functions. Over the coming years, the channel is likely to adjust somewhat to the return of water. Some scouring here, and some deposition there, will make for an increasingly diverse set of habitat niches.

Waterways are special for a lot of reasons, including their support of wildlife and birds. They are also among the most utilized migration corridors for wildlife. The hydrologic connections between tributaries and main rivers are also how nutrients are moved throughout an ecosystem. Interconnectedness is how the miracle of nature makes every place unique and useful. When these connections are severed, the whole ecology of an area is affected. It’s rare to have an opportunity to reconnect a disconnected system, and watching it come back to life is extremely exciting. “Seeing the first flow through Rice Creek is like watching a river be reborn…a once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Conservation Director Brian Stark.

Despite its modest size, Rice Creek is an important habitat feature of the Preserve as it supports birds and wildlife, as well as amphibians. To see a time-lapse of Rice Creek flow in it’s new path for the first time, visit .

Tags: , , , ,

About the Author

About the Author: .


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Comments are closed.