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Two green-backed, red-sided fish swim in a shallow creek.
Two male coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) spawners.

Fish play an important role in water environments. They feed on nearly all types of plants and animals, they provide a home for other organisms such as bacteria and crustaceans, and they are eaten by many other types of animals, including many terrestrial species. Their vast numbers and diversity also contributes to their importance. Fish are the most abundant vertebrates in terms of both species and individuals. It is estimated that there are approximately 22,000 species of fish which make up about half of all species of vertebrates on earth—a little more than half of these species are marine (58%).

Coho Salmon & Steelhead Trout

Point Reyes National Seashore protects a portion of the watershed necessary to ensure the safe migration and spawning of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and steelhead trout (O. mykiss). This protection is necessary as both species have been directly impacted by human activities and development. Healthy creeks are one step toward maintaining and hopefully increasing their populations. Their true hope for survival lies in changing human attitudes, behaviors, and priorities.

Armed with chest waders and measuring sticks, National Park Service staff and volunteers brave streams swollen from the winter rains to survey for spawning coho and steelhead. They track spawners, carefully count carcasses, and take tissue samples for DNA analysis, providing valuable information to study the abundance and distribution of these fish. This is part of the work of the Coho and Steelhead Restoration Project.

When coho salmon and steelhead trout were placed on the threatened species list, the National Park Service initiated a five-year project to identify, evaluate, restore, and enhance coho and steelhead populations and their habitat within three West Marin parks, Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Muir Woods National Monument. The Coho and Steelhead Restoration Project is focusing on Pine Gulch, Redwood, Olema, and Lagunitas creeks and their watersheds.

The project has the following six objectives:

  • To learn what may influence the reproductive success of coho and steelhead by looking at present stream conditions.
  • To investigate past stream conditions and how these have affected populations of salmon and steelhead.
  • To assess current coho salmon and steelhead abundance and distribution.
  • To develop and implement a plan for restoring and monitoring the fish and their habitat.
  • To inform the public and other resource managers.
  • To encourage community involvement through education and restoration of the watersheds.

The benefits of this program extend far beyond these salmonids. Healthy streams and riparian systems in West Marin will protect habitat for a myriad of other aquatic and land creatures such as river otters, California freshwater shrimp (an endangered species), California red-legged frogs (a threatened species) and migratory songbirds that nest in creekside bushes and shrubs.

The success of this ambitious program depends on the active participation of the public, local community conservation organizations, adjacent landowners, and public agencies. By working together, we will lay the groundwork for sustainable and healthy streams, riparian zones, and watersheds.

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More information about Coho and Steelhead may be found on the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center's Coho Salmon & Steelhead Trout page, along with Seasonal Updates. For information on when and where to see Coho and Steelhead, visit our Viewing Coho Salmon page.

For information about becoming involved in the Coho and Steelhead Restoration Project, call project staff at 415-464-5191.

The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) is a local non-profit organization that works to protect endangered salmon in the Lagunitas Watershed. SPAWN offers walks to view spawning salmon for the public and for school groups, in addition to offering seminars, training, and volunteer and internship opportunities.

View Fish of Point Reyes National Seashore species list (70 KB PDF, Adobe® Acrobat Reader® may be needed to view PDFs).


Learn More About Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout

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      Multimedia Presentations

      From 2007 to 2012, Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center Science Communication Interns produced a series of podcasts, videos, and audio-slide shows exploring science from Bay Area national parks. Five of these The Natural Laboratory multimedia products focused on fish—two on white sharks, two on coho salmon, and one on tidewater gobies. View the videos or listen to the podcasts below. Visit our Multimedia Presentations: The Natural Laboratory page for additional videos and podcasts.


      Science Behind the Scenery: Coho Salmon and Steelhead Trout Video

      In 2004, the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center produced a DVD entitled "Science Behind the Scenery." One segment of this video series features coho salmon and steelhead trout.


      Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center Research Project Summaries

      From 2006 to 2009, Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center (PCSLC) communication interns assisted scientists conducting research through the PCSLC and the San Francisco Bay Area Inventory & Monitoring Network to produce a series of Resource Project Summaries, two of which were about fish at Point Reyes. These two-page summaries provide information about the questions that the researchers hoped to answer, details about the project and methods, and the results of the research projects in a way that is easy to understand.

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      Last updated: April 18, 2022

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      Contact Info

      Mailing Address:

      1 Bear Valley Road
      Point Reyes Station , CA 94956


      This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; fire danger information; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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