Research: Elk Creek

Though our resurvey efforts endeavor to follow as closely as possible in the footsteps of Grinnell and his colleagues, often times the exact path they walked is obscure or inaccessible. So it was an unusual treat when, at our final site of the summer, we could watch the sun rise over the exact gravel riverbank…

Research: Butte Creek

Rivers, rivers everywhere. And not a drop to drink. But thankfully, plenty to swim in. Because it’s been terribly hot around here. Mountain rivers are the life blood of California. They bring water to cities, suburbs, and farms throughout the state. And here in Butte County, nestled in the northeastern corner of the Central Valley,…

Research: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge

The best ponds are the kind with water in them. That may seem like a self-evident statement. But after visiting countless rivers, ponds, marshes, and even entire wildlife refuges that were bone dry, water seems a thing of myth and beauty. And there was plenty of it here. The entire Sacramento wildlife refuge complex (Sacramento,…

Research: Knight’s Landing and Sacramento

About a week ago, I told myself I could no longer be surprised by anything in this valley. Then I arrived at my next site near Knight’s Landing. And it was one fire. A controlled burn, at least – apparently a yearly effort to clear the dry grass along the Sacramento River, thus preventing larger…

Research: Rumsey

I can’t remember the last time I went swimming in a natural river. But when Andrea and I discovered the beach just downhill from our campground, overflowing with water and bordered by picturesque cliffs, we simply couldn’t resist. At one time, I pictured the Central Valley as a single flat rift through the center of…

Research: Alamo Creek

Nothing starts a morning like the glow of sunrise through oak branches. We were delighted by the trees at our last site. But a short journey outside Vacaville to Alamo Creek put us beneath an even thicker canopy of buckeye, walnuts, laurel, and three species of oaks, all twisting their branches over the grassy hills…

Research: Ulatis Creek

I was having a lousy day. Then I met Kevin. Kevin walked circles around my car for over an hour straight, looking at his reflection. And that cheered me up. With our move from Los Banos to Vacaville, we have officially crossed into northern California. I can’t be sure where amidst the rain-soaked journey the…

Research: Los Banos Proper

I’m frequently surprised by the diversity of birds that can be found in urban parks and suburban neighborhoods. A few native species, those less tolerant to human disturbance, are inevitably lost. But proper plantings can nonetheless foster a thriving bird community. Proper plantings, of course, being the key concept. Unfortunately, the sparse vegetation and excess…

Research: Great Horned Owl Antics

One of the treats of our current campground is a very active resident Great Horned Owl. In addition to hooting all night long, we can almost always easily spot her roosting in the trees above our campsite, and in the late afternoon her rovings about the campgrounds are announced by a noisy procession of angry…

Research: South of Los Banos

“There must be now about 10,000 acres of the Miller and Lux property, under irrigation for pasture, much less than formerly; and I was told that just as soon as old man Miller, now about 80 years old, dies, the whole thing will be cut up for colonization. So that this famous feeding ground for…

Research: Fresno

In 1911, the San Joaquin River was a 10 mile journey from the city of Fresno. Today, the bluffs are topped by golf courses, outlet malls, and houses. Very large, expensive houses with fancy trimmings and yards full of every manicured ornamental plant you could think of. It’s always a little awkward walking through a…