Galbreath Wildlands Preserve

landscape of meadows, Douglas Fir and oak trees

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Size & Location 3,670 acres, Yorkville, Mendocino County
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The 3,670-acre Galbreath Wildlands Preserve lies in the upper Navarro Watershed in the Outer Coast Range of northern California. The Preserve's woodlands, forests and grassland communities lie 17 miles from the coast, at the edge of coastal fog influence. The topographically diverse landscape ranges from 900 to 2,200 feet. Lands are bisected by Rancheria Creek which flows northward through the preserve and drains into the Navarro River. The small outpost of Yorkville is 5 miles from the Preserve, and the nearest towns are Cloverdale (20 miles) and Boonville (18 miles).


Rainfall and floods are seasonal, falling primarily between October and May, and are typical of the wet Mediterranean-type climate of north coastal California. The Navarro River watershed receives about 40 inches of rainfall with about 60% falling during winter months from mid-December through the end of March. In nearby Yorkville the warmest months are July and August (91/90 F average high and 55/56 F average low respectively) and coolest are in December and January (55/56 F average high and 37/37 F average low respectively). The highest recorded temperature was 115°F in 1955 and the lowest recorded temperature was 13°F in 1972. Rainfall average is 40.2 inches, with the lowest average monthly rainfall in July (0.02 in) and August (0.09 in) and the highest average is December (7.91 in). Large storms and floods are episodic. Since the 1950's significant floods have occurred about once a decade.


The Navarro River watershed contains the highly erodible Franciscan mélange (a jumbled matrix of rock types created as the Pacific tectonic plate subducts beneath the North American plate) and alluvial fill, as well as the Coastal Belt of the Franciscan Assemblage, which is more stable and resistant to erosion. Although serpentine outcrops, which are characteristic of this formation, are common locally, exposed serpentine has not been found on the Preserve. Alluvial fill occurs in Anderson Valley and low-lying areas of major tributaries, such as Rancheria Creek, and Franciscan melange is associated with middle and upper Rancheria Creek. Most of the rest of the watershed contains soil derived from the Coastal Belt of the Franciscan Assemblage.


The Galbreath Preserve lies in the upper Rancheria sub-basin of the Navarro Watershed, and contains 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th order streams. Rancheria Creek flows northward through the Preserve and drains into the Navarro River. Rancheria Creek dries up during the summer, but its tributaries, such as Yale Creek, which lie in steep canyons, can remain wet throughout the summer. Since 1951, a USGS stream flow gage has been maintained about nine miles upstream of the mouth of the Navarro. Throughout the Navarro watershed, recent alluvium, stream channel, and terrace deposits provide groundwater recharge to surface streams and supply wells and springs. Only minor amounts of groundwater are contributed by the Franciscan Formation. Flows dry up in tributaries during summer months, with the only surface water present derived from springs. Only the mainstem Navarro River, North Fork Navarro River, and lower reaches of Anderson, Rancheria, and Indian Creeks contain year-round surface water.

Two natural ponds occur on ridgeline in the southern portion of the Preserve. Wood Duck Pond is fed by a spring and contains water year-round. An unnamed pond nearby dries seasonally.


Vegetation occurs in mosaics representative of the inner North Coast Range (NCoRI) and the outer North Coast Range (NCoRO) geo-floristic districts. Preserve vegetation types in order of abundance (from Calveg 2007) are:

  • Pacific Douglas Fir Forest (1980 acres, 51.4%) - Over half the Preserve is Douglas fir (Pseuotsuga menziezii) forest, characterized by a higher, irregular overstory of Douglas fir and lower overstory of sclerophyllous broad leaved evergreen trees, such as tanoak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus) and Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii). Sugar pines (Pinus lambertiana) occur in isolated locations on some ridgelines.
  • Hardwood Forests (1600 acres, 42%) – Hardwood forest types on the Preserve include Interior Mixed Hardwood, Montane Mixed Hardwood, and Single Dominant Hardwood. Hardwood habitats typically consist of an evergreen hardwood tree layer, a patchy shrub layer, and sparse herbaceous cover. Associates include tanoak, Pacific madrone, Douglas-fir, and California black oak (Quercus kelloggii). Some areas of the Preserve support single species dominants, including California Bay laurel (Umbellaria californica), Tanoak, Valley Oak (Q. lobata), Canyon Live Oak (Q. chrysolepis), Interior Live Oak (Q. wislizeni var. wislizeni), Oregon White Oak (Q. garyana) and Coast Live Oak (Q. agrifolia). Sudden oak death is documented at the Preserve and is the subject of on-going monitoring.
  • Annual Grasslands and Forbs (160 acres, 4%) - Annual grassland habitat is composed primarily  of annual European grasses and some invasive perennials such as Harding grass (Phalaris aquatic). Areas dominated by native perennial grasses are patchy.
  • Redwood Douglas Fir Forest (57 acres, 1.5%) – Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are mostly limited to drainages and north slopes on the northern portion of the preserve. They also co-occur with Douglas fir. Based on field reconnaissance, redwoods are underestimated in the Calveg data.
  • Barren Soil / Riparian Vegetation (55 acres, 1.4%) – Bare soil predominantly occurs along eroding terraces and stream channel of Rancheria Creek. Riparian vegetation along Rancheria Creek is not extensive enough to register in the Calveg layer (minimum mapping unit for Calveg is 2.5 acres). Species include white alder (Alnus rhombifolia), big leaf maple (Acer microphyllum) and red and arroyo willows (Salix laevigata and S. lasiolepis).

Chapparral commonly occurs on dry slopes and ridges throughout the watershed but is notably absent from the Preserve. Some chapparral species, such as coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) and manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita) are scattered in small patches or in the understory of open woodlands.

The following special status plant species are documented at the Preserve:

Galbreath Preserve Special Status Plant Species
Common Name Scientific Name Status
Franciscan Onion Allium peninsulare var. franciscanum CNPS 1B.2 Fairly threatened in California
White-Flowered Rein Orchid Piperia candida CNPS 1B.2 Fairly threatened in California
Santa Cruz Clover Trifolium buckwestiorum CNPS 1B.1 Seriously threatened in California



The Preserve is relatively unexplored and knowledge about species occurrences and distributions on the property is still being compiled (see Galbreath Species Lists). 

Top predators are still present within the landscape, and include mountain lion (Puma concolor), black bear (Ursus americanus), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), coyote (Canis latrans), bobcat (Lynx rufus) and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). 

Rancheria Creek and its tributaries support anadromous fish that make the journey inland from the ocean to breed and oversummer in cool waters of the upper watershed. Northern California Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and California Coastal Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) – both listed as federally threatened - were once abundant in Rancheria Creek. Between 1948 and 1952, large numbers of Coho and Steelhead were rescued from drying areas of Rancheria Creek by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (KrisWeb 2011). Today, Coho have largely disappeared from the upper watershed. Steelhead are still present and have been documented by CDFW in Rancheria Creek in 1994, 2000, and 2001. The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (2005) considers Rancheria Creek a “critical habitat” for the Northern California Steelhead.

Riparian areas include coastal species, such as Merganzers (Mergus merganser), that fly inland along the Navarro River. Most species observed, however, are typical of riparian inland areas, such as yellow-legged frog (Rana boylii), western pond turtle (Emys marmorata), garter snakes (Thamnophis atratus, T. sirtalis), and red-bellied newts (Taricha rivularis). Pacific giant salamanders (Dicamptodon ensatus) breed along water courses and retreat to burrows in the cool canyons. Natural and man-made ponds attract breeding newts (Taricha granulosa and T. torosa), garter snakes (Thamnophis elegans), wood ducks (Aix sponsa), and wildlife during the summer. Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), which are non-native and known to feed on a variety of native amphibians and reptiles, are found in Rancheria Creek.

Upland habitats are dominated by a patchwork of douglas fir, redwood, and hardwood forests. The majority of doug fir and redwood forests are secondary growth, decreasing the potential for federally threatened marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) and northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina). Species occurring in redwood and douglas fir forests include red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) and violet-green swallows (Tachycineta thalassina) in the overstory; pileated woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus), red-breasted sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus ruber) and western grey squirrel (Sciurus griseus) in the understory canopy; and brown creepers (Certhia americana) and white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) in the shrub layer. Blue grouse (Dendragapus obscura), which eat conifer needles in the winter, are found in forest clearings.

Acorns produced by 9 species of oaks are a key resource for black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus), black bear (Ursus americanus), scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens), California quail (Callipepla californica), band-tailed pigeons (Columba fasciata), and acorn woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) among others. Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) and turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo), which also are avid acorn eaters, can occur in large numbers throughout Preserve. In some years, ground disturbance from feral pigs is extensive.

The following special status animals are documented at the Preserve:

Galbreath Preserve Special Status Animals
Group Common Name Scientific Name Status1
Fishes Northern California Steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss T
Amphibians Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog Rana boylii SSC, S2S3, BLM:S, USFS:S
Reptiles Western Pond Turtle Actinemys marmorata SSC, S3, IUCN:VU
Birds Allen’s Hummingbird Selasphorus sasin ABC:Y
Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii S3
Sharp-Shinned Hawk Accipiter striatus S3
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos S3, BLM:S, CDF:S
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus S2, CDF:S 
Osprey Pandion haliaetus S3, CDF:S  
Mountain Quail Oreortyx pictus ABC:Y
Hermit Warbler   Dendroica occidentalis ABC:Y
Varied Thrush Ixoreus naevius ABC:Y
Mammals Yuma Myotis Myotis yumanensis BLM:S
Sonoma Tree Vole Arborimus pomo SSC

1Key to Status Codes: ABC:Y - American Bird Conservatory: Yellow Watch List; BLM:S - Bureau of Land Management: Sensitive; CDF:S - Cal Fire: Sensitive; IUCN-V - International Union for Conservation of Nature-Vulnerable; USFS:S - US Forest Service: Sensistive Species; S2 - Natural Heritage/NatureServe Subnational Rank-Imperiled; S3 - Natural Heritage/NatureServe Subnational Rank-Vulnerable; SSC - California Department of Fish and Wildlife Species of Special Concern; T - US Fish and Wildlife Service-Federally Threatened

History & Land Use

At the time of historic contact with Europeans, the Preserve was within the territory of the Central Pomo people. Central Pomo speakers occupied land from the southern Mendocino coast at the mouth of the Gualala River, extending north just above the Navarro River and east to the crest of the Russian River divide, approximately 40 miles (64 km) inland. The redwood-covered mountains between the coast and the valleys were only seasonally inhabited and were accessed along defined trail routes. Villages and campsites were more common in the warmer interior on the eastern border of the redwood belt, with permanent villages in more favorable locations.

Several villages and campsites occurred near the Preserve along Rancheria Creek and areas southwest of Yorkville. Late, the principal village in this area, was located on the west bank of Rancheria Creek approximately one mile west of Yorkville. The people of Late were referred to as Danokeya, or “upstreamers,” by coastal Pomo. Other villages and camps nearby included Polma, on the west side of Rancheria Creek 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Yorkville; Kalaicolem, 1.25 miles (2 km) south‐southwest of Yorkville; and Lali, near the head of Rancheria Creek 2 miles (3.2 km) southwest of the town of Whitehall. The tribelet community consisted of several villages of 100 to 2,000 people belonging to one or more extended kin groups. A headman in each extended family acted as leader and formed a tribal council with other extended family leaders.

The Central Pomo had amicable interactions with their neighbors, often venturing seasonally into the territories belonging to other Pomo groups to hunt and gather. Relationships with groups living in more distant areas were maintained through social and economic exchange. The Clear Lake area was regularly visited for its distinctive fisheries, as well as the unusual mineral resources available there (magnesite, steatite, and two sources of obsidian). Trips to the coast were made to collect clams and other sea food.

Because the nearest mission was far to the south in the town of Sonoma (Mission San Francisco de Solano), the Central Pomo were largely spared the conflicts endured by other tribes during the Spanish Mission Period. However, in the mid 1840s, Mexico granted three land grants as far north as Mendocino County: the Sanel Valley, Yokaya and an unnamed grant in Point Arena. Central Pomo may have been recruited to work for these Mexican ranchos.

The United States assumed control of Alta California in 1848 and the first American settlers began to claim lands in the area. The earliest structures recorded on the Preserve are the “Livingston’s house” and an old trail. Both appear on the General Land Office map in 1884. Features within 1 mile of the Preserve include the “Leaford’s house”, an old road to Whitehall, a road to Cloverdale, a spring, and old trail.

Similar to other areas in the region, Douglas fir and redwood were heavily logged between the late 1800s and mid 1900s and there have been substantial changes in hydrology due to high levels of sedimentation, which reached historic highs in the region between the 1950s-70s.

In 1944, the property was purchased by Fred Burckhalter Galbreath (1901-2000). Professionally, Galbreath made his mark in the marine insurance business in San Francisco and spent decades working with some of the biggest names in the industry. In 1944, he purchased property in southern Mendocino County as a working sheep ranch and undertook a wide variety of projects to improve the health of habitats on the property. He reduced sedimentation by undertaking drainage improvement projects, removed the invasive wild boars through hunting, and engaged in selective forestry to reduce downed woody debris and remove old and diseased trees. Throughout his life, Galbreath valued protection of natural resources and the knowledge needed to make wise land management decisions. He donated the Galbreath Wildlands Preserve to Sonoma State University through a living trust in 2006. The lands are now managed for research and education.


Three campgrounds are available for overnight stays or day use.

  • Madrone Camp, 1.5 miles from the entrance includes picnic tables, storage, water and portapotty and can support up to 40 people.
  • White Oak Camp is 0.75 miles from the entrance and  has picnic tables and compositing toilet and can host up to 15 people.
  • Rancheria Creek Campg is 4 miles from the entrance and has no water or facilties and can host up to 25 people. 

An 8-mile dirt road traverses the Preserve. Roads are steep but clearance is good. Roads may be closed immediately after a rain. Cell phone reception is possible at only two sites within the Preserve. Additional information about facilities and reservations is available at "Visit a Preserve."

Facility planning is underway for a field station to support educational and research use of the Preserve. 


For a list of current research, see Publications & Reports


Key management challenges include erosion from old logging roads and control of invasive species such as feral pigs (Sus scrofa), yellow-star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and douglas fir (Pseuotsuga menziezii). Sudden oak death occurs on the Preserve and declines in some oak species are anticipated. See Publications & Reports for resource management documents.

A detailed list of natural resource management issues is outlined by: