About 12,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era the upper Williamson river turned east, instead of west, when it hit a mountain at the north end of the valley.
Back then the river passed between a low drainage at the base of Little Yamsi Butte and emptied into the Great Basin.
If you recall the Great Basin was a huge lake back then and extended clear to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. In 1997, through DNA tests and other scientific experiments, it was determined that the Upper Williamson River Redband trout is directly related to Rocky mountain redbands.
Over the centuries they have evolved into a subspecies and can be found only in this little known 45 mile stretch of water.
When I bought my property it had been used as a cattle ranch for more than 70 years. The river banks were denuded and they had eroded so much over the decades of abuse that the river bed had widened to nearly twice its original width. Of course it became more shallow too. Combined with the lack of streamside vegetation which took away any shade and the increased siltation from erosion, the water temperatures rose dramatically. The first summer I spent at Aspen Ridge the water temperature reached 76 degrees by the end of August. Of course fish were scarce.
During the first three years of my ownership I worked, with the help of the local fly fishing club, to rehabilitate the river and riparian zone. We placed bank stabilizing trees in the river and these also prove to be great habitat for fish.
I've planted nearly 1000 willows, a few of which are actually growing well, finally.
Below you see the river and riparian zone as they are today. The water temperature seldom rises above 62 degrees and the fish have returned in numbers and size. I have to tell you that I attribute 98% of the stream's recovery to the fact that cattle have not been on these banks for ten years.
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