Help Support BEC!

Help Our Work
Click Here

Stay Informed

Stay Connected

Top-Rated Nonprofit!

1% for the Planet

BEC is Member of EarthShare

You are here

Big Chico Creek Watershed

beaver dam

Big Chico Creek is 45 miles long and originates from a series of springs on Colby Mountain, at the interface between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Cascade Mountains. The creek flows through both Butte and Tehama Counties, and includes four main tributaries; Rock Creek, Sycamore Creek, Mud Creek, and Lindo Channel for a total watershed size of 152,254 acres.  In the upper section, Big Chico Creek flows through mixed coniferous forests, steep fire prone canyons, oak woodlands, and the 3,950 acre CSU, Chico Ecological Reserve.  Downstream Big Chico Creek encompasses Bidwell Park, one of the countries largest municipal parks at 3,670 acres and approximately 11 miles long.  The creek flows through the center of CSU, Chico, the City of Chico, and through the valley towards its confluence with the Sacramento River. Land-uses throughout the watershed include clear-cut logging, grazing, urban and rural residential developments, agriculture, and recreation.

Links and Resources

Big Chico Creek Existing Conditions Report
Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve
Chico Creek Nature Center
City of Chico, Bidwell Park
Friends of Bidwell Park
Keep Chico Clean
Mechoopda Maidu Indians
The Stream Team

Fun Facts about the Big Chico Creek Watershed

You know you like to hike in it, swim in it, and drink the water from it, but did you know….

  • Big Chico Creek is 45 miles long, from the headwaters at Colby Mountain to the mouth at the Sacramento River.
  • Rock Creek, Lindo Channel, Sycamore Creek and Mud Creek are all tributaries to Big Chico Creek.
  • About 75 Million years ago the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean reached up into the foothills covering Bidwell Park.
  • Oak tree acorns were an important food source for the Konkow, who crushed the acorns in mortars, leached the tannic acids, and used the flour to bake bread.
  • Central Valley Spring-run Chinook Salmon, who use Big Chico Creek for habitat, are anadromous, meaning they start and end their lives in fresh water, but spend 3- 4 years as adults in the Pacific Ocean. 
  • Since 1956 the California Department of Fish and Game and other researchers have found annual populations of adult spring-run Chinook salmon in decline with significant variations year to year, and annual average populations of 141.
  • Beavers and River Otters live in Big Chico Creek and its tributaries.
  • One-mile pool was constructed in 1918, and once supported a bathing suit rental business.
  • You can walk all the way to the Sacramento River from Nord Ave. along Big Chico Creek if you stay within Bidwell River Park, which is from the center of the creek bed to the top of the north bank in most cases.
  • Logging (including the practice of clear-cutting) is a major land-use in the mountains of Big Chico Creek.
  • On average, Chico residents use approximately 230 gallons of water per day pumped from the Tuscan Aquifer.
  • The Tuscan Aquifer groundwater levels underlying the City of Chico, have declined an average of 15 feet in the last 31 years. 
  • Flume St. in Chico was named from a V shaped flume that transported lumber down the entire length of Big Chico Creek, from the headwaters, through Iron Canyon in Bidwelll Park, all the way to East 8th St. and Pine.
  • The Big Chico Creek Watershed ‘catches’ rain and snow from over 150,000 acres.  Some of that water recharges the aquifer, some of it flows through the creek and its tributaries, and minus some sent back into the atmosphere through evaporation…, the water flows downhill towards a single point where the creek meets the Sacramento River.
  • The dam above Bear Hole was constructed in 1940 to divert water to a reservoir at Horseshoe lake and irrigate the golf course. 
  • The upper watershed receives an average of 70-80 inches of precipitation each year, whereas the valley average is only about 20 inches. 

Learn more about Little Chico Creek!

*Beaver dam photo taken by Nani Teves in Lower Bidwell Park.