Golden Trout Headquarters
Catch the Gold
Story of the Golden Trout
I can liken it to nothing more accurately than
a twenty dollar gold piece, the same satin finish….
It gleamed and melted and glowed as thought fresh
from the mold…. I thought then, and have ever since,
that the Golden Trout, fresh from the water, is one
of the most beautiful fish that swims.
Stewart Edwards White, 1903
Watching a golden trout can be pure delight. One moment it blends into the amber-hued stream bottom as a camouflaged shadow in the depths. The next instant it transforms into gleaming gold and red, turning and catching the sun a flash of pure beauty and joy! Scientists aren’t sure why these fish exhibit such vibrant and distinctive colors. Perhaps it’s a form of communication.
Discovering the Gold
Golden Trout owe their existence to powerful geologic forces which have been at work on the Kern Plateau for 1 ½ million years. Some streams became isolated. Fish that survived in these “safe pockets” slowly evolved into the unique golden trout we know today.
The first human contact with golden trout was probably made by Native American Indians. They traveled into the mountains
to escape summer heat. The wild Kern Plateau offered good hunting and fishing, sustaining these visitors during their stay.
Other than a few creeks where golden trout lived, high elevation waters in the southern Sierra Nevada range remained fishless until
The mid 1800’s. This is when prospectors, shepherds, loggers and anglers exploring the Plateau fell under the spell of these
beautiful trout. They transplanted them into lakes and streams outside of their native range. That’s why you don’t have to travel far from where you are to discover your own ‘Gold nugget’ of beauty’
Ecosystems &The Golden Thread
Tapestry of Gold
An ecosystem is like a tapestry of interconnected lives. Golden Trout are one thread in the tapestry’s fabric.The more threads that remain intact, the stronger the fabric and the healthier the tapestry. For thousands of years, the golden trout, which is non-aggressive by nature, and the mountain yellow-legged frog have coexisted in the same high mountain meadow streams. Today, this frog is rare on the Plateau because it, like the golden trout, has suffered the consequences of a damaged ecosystem.
What took nature hundreds of centuries to form began to unravel in less than one. To understand what happened, use your imagination to look into the distant past…
The Kern Plateau ecosystem once sustained a balanced relationship among land, water, plants and animals. The Golden trout, having evolved only in this one place on earth, held a unique position in the plateau’s life tapestry. Its survival depended on rain and snow water flowing from the forested uplands. Lush, wet meadows acted like giant sponges. Clean, oxygen-rich creeks flowed year-round.
Plants like the willow provided cover, tempering the effects of sun, wind and ice. Dense grasses protected streambanks from erosion and collapse. Deep, cool pools teemed with life. Insects like the desmonid caddisfly thrived and were eaten by the trout. These beautiful meadow streams gave the golden trout a home they could count on.
Then, around 1900, people’s activities seriously began to interfere with the golden trout’s habitat. Overgrazing by domestic animals, introduction of other trout species and folks who came to the Plateau for recreation all contributed to a rapid decline of natural resources. Threads essential for the golden trout’s existence became frayed or were lost entirely. Its life thread stretched to the breaking point, to the very brink of extinction.
Going for the Gold
Recovering the gold
Only death extinguishes the golden trout’s brilliance of color-its flash of beauty and joy. They continue to struggle for survival, not living as long or growing as big as they once did. Because of the extent of past damage, restoration of the original native golden trout habitat is a major challenge. But many people are working together to
bring back nature’s balance on the Kern Plateau. Forest Service crews, volunteers and permittees help reduce erosion by restoring plants and streamsbanks.
Domestic grazing and recreation use is monitored and carefully managed to reduce impacts to natural resources. Allowing natural fire cycles to occur on the Plateau also contributes to the good health of its ecosystem.
The Golden Trout Wilderness is a sanctuary not only for the golden trout, but also for all forms of life on the
Plateau that lived together successful for thousands of years creating a stable ecosystem. Helping to re-weave
nature’s tapestry in the recovery process gives people a sense of connection to the golden thread.
Our Future with the Gold
Our wild golden trout serves as the symbol and index by which we must gauge the quality of recovery. A different pattern to the fabric’s weave is emerging with people as an integral part of nature’s balance. We are ,"going for the gold” by trying to insure the survival of these trout. People working together are turning things around. Through active involvement. The golden trout’s natural home continues to recover so that your children and your children’s may also "Catch a glimpse of gold!"