Monday, May 30, 2011

exploring the Sausal Creek watershed

Sometimes I think I've explored other parts of Oakland better than I've explored the hills where K and I live. When I'm elsewhere in Oakland, I tend to try new routes, go through different neighborhoods, seek out new things. Closer to home, we tend to stick to the same places—I don't know how many times we've hiked the same trails in Huckleberry and Redwood regional parks, or taken the same routes to Montclair Village. So yesterday, K and I decided to hike someplace new.

Many Oaklanders are probably more familiar with the middle stretch of Sausal Creek, where it passes through the Dimond and the topographically named Sausal Creek neighborhood, roughly parallel to Fruitvale Ave. The Dimond has some awesome wayfinding mosaics (featured on Oaktown Art) to point people towards it. But the upper part is fed by Shepherd Creek and Palo Seco Creek, then cuts the Dimond Canyon through Oakmore, draining a large section of the Oakland hills.

We headed to the western part of Joaquin Miller Park, just off highway 13, to one of the upper parts of the Sausal Creek watershed. Looking at some very helpful maps from the Friends of Sausal Creek, it turns out we're actually in the watershed at home. We're on the Shepherd Canyon side of a largish ridge, and Shepherd Creek feeds into Sausal Creek. (Also check out great info on the geology of the area on Oakland Geology.) We started with a short, steep hike up to Visionary Ridge, to a viewpoint favored by Joaquin Miller himself. We hung out there for a while, admiring the sweeping view of Oakland.


Then we headed further up Palo Seco creek. There are gorgeous redwoods, which while not as old as the ones in Muir Woods, are every bit as beautiful. The area was heavily logged in Oakland's history, with redwoods being used for ship's masts and building construction, but new trees have grown up since then. We crossed the creek and walked down a narrow trail on the other side.

Eventually we reached highway 13, where the creek temporarily dives underground and under the freeway, and so did we -- there's a pedestrian underpass linking Mountain Blvd. and Monterey Blvd. A short walk took us back into redwoods and a trail following the creek. Near the Montclair Golf Course, Palo Seco Creek joins with Shepherd Creek to form Sausal Creek. From there it flows down Dimond Canyon. We ended our exploration at the Liemert Bridge over Dimond Canyon, but the creek continues through Oakmore, the Dimond and along Fruitvale Ave., with various parks providing access to it.

Sausal Creek joins the estuary

The lower part of the Sausal Creek watershed is considerably less glamorous than the upper part. Just before the creek reaches International Blvd., it goes underground, resurfacing where it drains into the estuary. There's a very small park near the Fruitvale Bridge, and a marker embedded in the concrete to note it's Sausal Creek.

More pictures in my Sausal Creek watershed album:
Sausal Creek watershed


Anonymous said...

The path along Palo Seco creek is a treasure. A place that beautiful, almost empty on Memorial Day weekend...amazing. Where was everybody??

Anonymous said...

One of my families favorite hikes. We called the forest on the SW side of the Highway 13 the enchanted forest - it is special.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I haven't been over to Joaquin Miller in at least ten years, but this was a great reminder to go again soon.

Unknown said...

I've been in Joaquin Miller many times (the upper trails are only a bit further from home than Redwood RP), but I had never explored the lower part. Definitely worth checking out, or checking out again.

Anonymous said...

hey Gene, we were there too! i was a bit hungover so we did an easy stroll along the sunset loop... it was gorgeous!

another reason to visit Joaquin Miller in the coming months is their summer theater series under the stars... Woodminster Summer Musicals