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Sweasey's Legacy


Sweasey's Legacy

Built during the 1930s, Sweasey Dam once provided water from Mad River to the city of Eureka in northwestern California. In the 1940s the dam had become obsolete, filled with sediment from unstable slopes upstream that had been intensely logged and ranched following white settlement in Humboldt County. The dam was a total barrier to anadromous and resident fish species, and became a popular Pacific lamprey fishing spot when still standing. Locals would fill up gunny sacks of 'eels' that they plucked off the face of the dam when the runs would begin every February. In 1970, then-named Department of Fish and Game dynamited the barrier and impounded sediment flushed downstream. This restored passage to miles of critical holding, spawning, and rearing habitat for rainbow trout, steelhead trout, coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and Pacific lamprey. Unfortunately, the freed sediment also contributed to widening the river's channel, and filled in crucial deep water pools throughout the lower stretches of Mad River. These changes continue to affect the morphology of the river and fish populations currently.

Photographer: Jacob Pounds