Chickering American River Reserve

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, which contain a variety of minerals, primarily calcium bicarbonate.

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 petroglyphic sites thought to be of 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. Wasp-mite symbiosis is currently being studied. 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. A plant list synthesized from the works of Chickering and others will be available in spring 2003, along with a bird list now in preparation.

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.

Contact Information
James Kirchner
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
479 McCone Hall
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-4767

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.
Google Map

None; the site is best suited for day use.

Inventory of vertebrates; Plant List

Faculty reserve manager on campus; no on-site personnel.

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.)

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

Average Temperatures
January minimum: -14ºC (7ºF)
July maximum: 30ºC (86ºF)

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