Chickering American River Reserve

Chickering American River Reserve / Photo by Christopher Woodcock

Located in the headwaters basin of the North Fork of the American River, the Chickering American River Reserve is the only NRS site set on the windward western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. This rugged site has thin soils and a variety of mountain habitats, including black oak woodlands, montane and subalpine coniferous forests, aspen groves, willow thickets, mixed riparian woodland, wet and dry subalpine meadows, montane chaparral, alpine lake margins, and fell fields. The basin also has scattered soda water springs that contain calcium bicarbonate and a variety of other minerals.

Rich in flora and fauna, the site harbors one thousand plant species. It also lies within the habitat ranges of a variety of mammals, including pika, yellow-bellied marmot, marten, fisher, mule deer, black bear, and mountain lion. One hundred bird species, including northern goshawks and California spotted owls, are among the other inhabitants, along with more than fifteen reptile and amphibian species, including the yellow-legged frog, a declining species. Significant petroglyph sites thought to be from the people of the Martis complex may date back 3,000 years or more.

Selected Research

Since 1975, when the Chickering family granted this land in a long-term conservation easement to the UC NRS, UC work on site has included a botanical checklist, pollination ecology studies, and wolverine surveys. A broad plant survey was conducted over several decades by landowner Sherman Chickering, along with an investigation of multiple phenotypes in the lily Fritillaria atropurpurea.

Research Conditions

Heavy snow during winter months generally restricts the research season to June through October. An absence of facilities and the distance from campus make this site best suited for day use. Camping is possible, though limited to 72 hours and to particular locations. This site is specified for environmentally sensitive research. The research area may be extended, through a specific use-agreement, onto 6,000 acres of adjacent land held by the North Fork Association (NFA). No more than six researchers may be working at the reserve at any given time.

Neil Tsutsui
Faculty Director
Assoc. Professor
130 Mulford Hall, MC 3114
Berkeley, CA 94720-3114

Placer County, 8 km (5 mi.) southeast of Donner Pass on the North Fork of the American River. Access is 18 km (11 mi.) past the town of Soda Springs on a dirt track.

None; the site is best suited for day use.

The reserve bibliography includes citations of journal articles, books, theses, art, and other works published about or based on activities conducted at the reserve.

Inventory of vertebrates
Plant List

Faculty reserve manager on campus

6,829 hectares (16,875 acres)

Reserve 1,830 to 2,470 m (6,000 to 8,000 ft.)
North Fork of the American River land: 1,463 to 2,682 m (4,800 to 8,800 ft.)

125 cm (49 in.) per year / average snowfall 850 cm (332 in.) per year

January minimum: -14 ºC (7 ºF)
July maximum: 30 ºC (86 ºF)
Dendra Weather Data