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Asley & Victoria Rodgers playing in Austin Creek where the CAZPAC summer dam was once located.
Austin Creek Summer Dams'
Information & News Page

September 2, 2002


Ingrams on Austin Creek
Visitors at Ingrams 1880. Swimming hole in Austin Creek located below King truss wooden bridge in background. Site is the current location of the Old Cazadero Road Iron bridge spanning Austin Creek near the Trosper Monument at the junction of King Ridge & Fort Ross Roads.(Cottage left background; livery/blacksmith shop right background. Ingrams hotel extreme left not visible)View NW.
Source: Scribners Magazine Fall 1881 issue


Murray's Cazadero dam

Interview with Owen Murray Sr. October 3, 1975 Orinda,CA.
Retired Jewelry Appraiser 209 Post Street, San Francisco
Owen Sr. was one of 12 children Father Rhody Murray; Mother Delia

  Rhody purchased his Cazadero Austin Creek property from George Montgomery in 1909. Rhody was an Engineer with the Southern Pacific Railroad and then transferred to the Northwestern Pacific railroad (NWP) where he piloted the ferry boats between San Francisco & Sausalito - one of the boats was the “Cazadero” Owen Sr. frequented Cazadero with his father who got free recreational NWP railroad passes. The Murrays’ property was adjacent to the RR turntable and they began damming the creek in 1911 where a deep hole was located around a large rock in the stream. They didn’t dam the entire creek width until 1945. The first annual summer dams were made using sacks of gravel and boards which extended into the creek just far enough to widen the swimming area around the hole and rock “Often the railroad men in Cazadero visited our swimming hole and had their noon lunches, and swapped stories, here. Sometimes they went swimming after work”. Owen remembered that the “dam’s water was always full of fingerling trout & salmon that used to nibble at the toes of swimmers. Crayfish were always found among the rocks in the western stream bank and the family would sometimes catch enough of them to ‘boil up a fine meal!’” After the dams were extended across the creek they began seeing little shrimp-like creatures while looking for the craw dads in the shaded shallow rocky & exposed tree root pools. “Sometimes aquatic birds would snap up the little shrimp and the water scooters that were in these pools. Raccoons were always coming down to our camp for handouts too.” Murrays’ Camp was mostly used by the growing family in the 1950s, but the swimming hole was always open to everyone in town. Sometimes the cabins were rented out to Bay Area acquaintances in the 1960s.


1917 travel brochure

From a 1917 vacation brochure issued by the Cazadero Improvement Club:
"Boating: There is one item of great interest that this club has accomplished. i. e. Austin Creek will, this season, have a dam made, which will give approximately a mile of water for boating, etc. Visitors will find this addition to their pleasures emphasised by the beauty of the creek. The swimming pool is a great social center, where the kiddies can play and bathe in perfect safety. You take the sun bath provided by nature for you. Come! Come! Come!"


After 116 years of constructing summer swimming dams in Austin Creek they were stopped by the Calif. Department of Fish & Game (DFG) beginning in 1991. Acting on a complaint it was determined that the dam construction methods may be harmful to the habitat of the Endangered Freshwater Shrimp, as well as the Steelhead and Coho salmon. In 1996 the creek's reparian environmental preservation activities were turned over to the U. S. Department of Interior's U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Army Corps of Engineers was designated to control any creek construction work through a permit application based on their regulatory Clean Water Act Code 404. To date all applications for summer dams have been denied. Cazadero's Murray Dam Committee has spent over $6000 in Application & consulting fees for a temporary sandbag dam to have the permit denied on Dec. 8, 1999. An appeal was filed on Feb 3, 2000 and Corps' study & opinion delays have stalled a final decision since May 1, 2000.

With the loss of dams there has been a significant loss of revenue to the community (Baptist Camp lost over $17,000 this summer so far) and a noticeable decline in the creek's aquatic life. Aquatic birds are feasting on fingerling trout & salmon caught in shallow pools, the once numerous Crayfish are difficult to find and salamanders and turtles are disappearing. Mosquito larvae are proliferating in the shallow isolated algae filled pools.


A community summer dam restoration meeting was held Saturday, June 29, 12:00 Noon at the CVFD Firehouse. The open meeting was held to explore interest and methods for including limited temporary summer dams or weirs in the Department of Interior's Austin Creek "aquatic life recovery" program. The meeting concluded with establishing a committee to develop a plan with which to approach the Dept of Interior for implementation assistance. The committee's focus is on achieving year round stream water flow using a "ripple pool ripple" concept, restoring all native aquatic life and constructing at least one annual community recreational dam & pool.


The committee for restoring summer dam/s has been named the Austin Creek Watershed Alliance (ACWA) committee. Currently the committee is consulting with a Restoration Ecologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service on how to implement Austin Creek's aquatic life recovery activities using the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) Community-based Restoration Program. The NOAA program provides technical and funding assistance.

The 1st Austin Creek Watershed Alliance (ACWA) committee meeting will be held Saturday 12:00 Noon, August 31, 2002 in the CVFD Conference room.
Leah Mahan, Restoration Ecologist for the National Marine Fisheries Service will discuss the procedures for implementing Austin Creek's aquatic life recovery activities using the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program.

  •   Update ~ The August 31st meeting was held with 12 attendees. Leah Mehan was unable to attend due to illness. Jeanette Dito (Chairperson) explained the NOAA process and the committee decided to attempt to get copies of the DF&G and Army Corps of Engineers' scientific studies on which the basis of their Austin Creek decisions are being made. The next meeting will be held Saturday, September 28th at noon where it is planned that Mehan will present the details of the NOAA procedures. The meeting was adjourned after adopting some procedural activities.

    * Bookmark this page for progress reports.

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