RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif. — Heavy rains are causing confusion along the American River--confusion for salmon. A number of fish are spawning up a creek to nowhere.

During heavy rain storms, salmon are swimming up Cordova Creek in Rancho Cordova. It’s unusual for salmon to be in Cordova Creek because it's actually a drainage ditch.

Greg Kerekes is with the non-profit group Urban Wildlife Research Project. He's been watching the salmon in Cordova Creek since November. 

"After the storm events, the water greatly decreases and the salmon could get trapped," said Kerekes.

The reason salmon are attracted to the drainage ditch is because it was recently reconstructed, according to Lilly Allen with the Sacramento Water Forum. In 2015, her organization helped complete a naturalization project on a half-mile stretch of the drainage ditch. 

"It’s now a haven for birds, bees and we even have some beavers in there," Allen said.

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The Naturalization Project in Cordova Creek finished in 2017 and it very quickly attracted a lot of beneficial wildlife, including salmon. 

"As a design group, we thought about this. We couldn't decide if we wanted to encourage them or discourage them. So, we left it alone and let nature take its course," said Allen.

Right now, nature is taking its course. The salmon that get stuck in Cordova Creek are at the end of their life cycle. They die after they lay their eggs. Not only that, turkey vultures that prey on the stranded fish would eat them whether they were in Cordova Creek or the American River, where the salmon enter the creek.

"There is research to show that some salmon stray from their natural stream," Kerekes said. 

The reality is, some salmon naturally just get confused and the fact that salmon got confused by Cordova Creek is a good thing. 

"It's a good testament to the quality of restoration done," said Kerekes.

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