North Coast Watersheds Mapping Project

​A Cooperative Effort of the California Department of Conservation and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

During the early 1980s, under the provisions of Section 208 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded a number of water protection projects that involved the geologic mapping of sensitive watersheds along California's north coast. Since then, the California Department of Conservation, California Geological Survey (CGS) has been contracted by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to produce maps for parts of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties, and other selected watersheds.

The long-range goals of the watersheds mapping projects are: 1) to retain productive forest soils, reduce sedimentation of north coast streams, and protect fish habitat; 2) to provide planning guides for timber harvesting and other forest management activities; 3) to comply with the Clean Water Goals of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act; and 4) to achieve the objectives in the state’s water quality control plans and other forest practice rules.

The maps provide information on the geology and geomorphic features affecting landslides for each of the watersheds studied. Physical characteristics that can be correlated to landslide potential, soil erosion potential and streambank erosion potential were mapped at a scale of 1:24,000. Sixty 7.5-minute quadrangles were completed by DMG between 1981 and 1985. Additional mapping in selected watersheds identified by CDF includes interpretative evaluations of relative slope stability for long-term planning purposes (see DMG Note 40).

Use of the Maps

Watershed maps are available to land managers, planners, and the public for uses aimed ultimately at the reduction of erosion and landsliding, and the enhancement of water quality.

The maps and legends will enable users to: 1) recognize and "flag" areas of potentially unstable ground, and 2) foresee and minimize potential problems in these areas. The maps should be most useful for identifying unstable and erosion-prone areas on a regional scale, and in the preparation of large scale, long-range management plans that use geologic information to minimize environmental impacts. The maps should not be used a substitute for on-the-ground site-specific studies (see DMG Note 45), but rather for identification of possible problem areas that need on-the-ground attention prior to development. Thus, identification of a landslide or geomorphic feature on the map does not preclude logging or other types of land development at that particular site.


Photo of translational/rotational landslide
Translational/rotational landslide, Humboldt County. Photo by Tom Spittler.

Four categories of active and dormant landslides are depicted on the maps. They include debris slides, translational/rotational slides, earthflows, and debris flows and torrent tracks. Debris slide amphitheaters and slopes and inner gorges are not technically landslides, but features formed by landslides processes. These too are included on the watersheds maps. In some places, complex landsliding causes irregular ground surfaces that are indistinguishable or too small to map at the 1:24,000 scale. Such areas are depicted on the maps as disrupted ground or in those watersheds where relative slope stability maps exist, areas of extreme, high, moderate, and low relative stability are identified. Factors affecting landslide potential in these areas are described in DMG Note 50.


Digital versions of the maps can be obtained through the CGS Information Warehouse: Landslides or at Download North Coast Watersheds Mapping Project Data.

Hard copies of the maps may be referenced at the CGS Library in Sacramento, or at the Eureka office (by appointment only). For office locations and contact information, go to Contact CGS.​

North Coast Watersheds Mapping Index

You may also be interested in CGS Special Publication 120: Index to Published Landslide Maps, California Coast Ranges, Monterey County and North for Use in Timber Harvest Plan Preparation on Non-Federal Land, by R.I. Davies and T.E. Spittler.

Index of north coast quadrangles mapped by this project. "D" indicates quadrangles mapped by the California Department of Water Resources and therefore not listed here
1Smith River83-19
2High Divide83-18
3Crescent City82-21
6Bull Creek83-03
10Myers Flat83-22
11Fort Bragg83-05
13Glenblair NW (Noyo Hill)82-25, 95-08
14Glenblair SW (Mathison Peak)83-20
15Glenblair NE (Northspur)82-19
16Glenblair SE (Comptche)83-21
20Dutchman’s Knoll83-33
22Sherwood Peak83-38
23Cahto Peak83-39
25Noble Butte83-41
26Childs Hill84-07
31Tan Oak Park84-17
32Lincoln Ridge84-14
33Hales Grove84-15
36Willits NW (Burbeck)84-19
37Willits SW (Greenough Ridge)84-20
39Mallo Pass Creek84-13
41Taylor Peak84-36
42Buckeye Mountain84-37
43Arcata North84-38
44Arcata South84-39
45Fields Landing85-04
46Iron Peak84-40
48Boonville NW (Bailey Ridge)84-42
49Boonville SW (Philo)84-43
50Navarro NE (Navarro)84-44
51Navarro SE (Cold Springs)84-45
52Point Arena84-46
53Point Arena NE (Eureka Hill)84-47
54Gualala84-48, 95-05
58Blue Lake85-06
60McWhinney Creek85-03
61Jackson Demonstration State Forest95-08, 82-25, 83-15, 83-20
Mokelumne River (not on map)95-06

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