Pond and Plug Timelapse in Indian Valley

Indian Valley meadow June 2013 | © Luke Hunt

Using pond and plug techniques, the Indian Valley meadow in California is on the path to recovery | Luke Hunt

In 2012, American Rivers and the US Forest Service received a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Coca-Cola to restore Indian Valley meadow, in the headwaters of the Mokelumne River.  To track the recovery following restoration, we installed a time lapse camera 50-feet up in a lodgepole pine with a view of the lower portion of the project. 

Like many meadows in the Sierra, Indian Valley saw heavy use following the gold rush and big impacts have left a lasting legacy.  In Indian Valley, a deeply eroded stream channel now drains groundwater from the meadow, and every year after the spring snowmelt, the meadow dries out much more quickly than it once did.  Scattered drought-tolerant sagebrush has replaced the thick mat of meadow plants that used to lock the soil in place, and consequently, small tributary channels are eroding and enlarging in a self-perpetuating cycle known as “unraveling."  Left unchecked, a network of gullies would develop and drain the entire valley, and the meadow would no longer provide the habit and clean water benefits it once did.

This timelapse shows how the process is stopped and the water table in Indian Valley is restored using pond and plug [PDF] restoration. You can see that the plants are carefully saved and replanted atop plugs in the channel. The plants will soon lock the soil plugs in place and the plugs will become part of the living and self-repairing landscape.

These images show the first few months of post-restoration recovery through the winter of 2012-2013.

One Response to “Pond and Plug Timelapse in Indian Valley”

Rick Lanman MD

Beavers do this work for free if they are provided with riparian willow and alder.