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Explore Putah Creek with help from new guide

December 31, 2000
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@ dcn.davis.ca.us

Both new residents and old-timers will find "Exploring Putah Creek: From Monticello Dam to the Yolo Wildlife Area" a wonderfully interesting and handy new guidebook.

Written by Ann Brice, illustrated by Michele Johnson, this booklet was a project of Putah Creek Council. It focuses on the lower 30-plus miles of the creek that ultimately connects to the Sacramento River and the Pacific Ocean.

For only $5 (available from the Naturalist and Bogey's Books in downtown Davis and from Putah Creek Cafe in Winters), this 44-page booklet includes a guide to six public access spots on the creek and short chapters on the birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and plants of the creek.

Johnson's many illustrations are wonderful additions. Brice has packed the booklet with much useful information and references to more information by phone or Internet. If you want to go on an outing, this is the book to read before you leave.

Brice introduces you to the history of the creek and explains what organization takes care of each section from Lake Solano Regional Park to Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, from UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve to the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area.

For instance, the UCD Riparian Reserve is described as the best site to get to by bicycle from downtown Davis because it is only a few miles away and can be accessed entirely by bike lanes. She also describes exactly how to get to the Restoria site that students and volunteers are currently replanting. Brice says Cold Canyon is the best place for a family or small group hike. >From the entrance (near Monticello Dam) it's just one mile up to the remnants of an old homestead and cold storage shed (hence the name). Brice directs visitors to check out three Internet sites for review before taking a hike in the reserve. She also warns that poison oak grows in great profusion in the area, even along the trails, although the UC Natural Reserve System steward tries to keep it pruned back. Be sure you can identify poison oak before heading out there.

Lake Solano Regional Park is described as the place to go for those looking for a place to camp, fish or canoe. The boating concession there is the only one on Lower Putah Creek.

If you rent a canoe, you can paddle downstream to the Diversion Dam for good birdwatching. The Diversion Dam, notes Brice, marks the end point for salmon, steelhead and lamprey migrating up Putah Creek.

If you keep going upstream, you'll come to Lake Berryessa and the Monticello Dam. School and community groups can tour Monticello Dam with a dam keeper by phoning the Solano Irrigation District at (707) 448-6847 for a reservation. Dam construction began in 1953. It's called Monticello Dam in honor of the little town of Monticello (Pop. 300) that used to exist there. The people and livestock were removed, homes and barns burned to the ground before the reservoir began to fill.

Water is sent to Solano County for agricultural and residential use and as a result of the May 2000 Putah Creek Accord, water also will continue to be sent to Yolo County for environmental purposes, specifically, to keep the creek flowing during drought years.

Brice also describes many of Putah Creek's largely unseen wild animals, which urban development has helped concentrate along its banks. I was running out on the UC Davis campus along Garrod Drive one day when I saw a red fox dash across a wide expanse of ground near the dry North Fork creekbed and oak swale east of the sheep barns. This was a surprising sight, particularly in mid-morning, but the fox was unmistakable due to its distinctive tail. Maybe its hiding place had been disturbed.

This is what Brice says about foxes: "Gray foxes…are fairly common residents of Putah Creek and its watershed. And in the past few decades the red fox has begun to make itself known in the area. Red foxes, with their bushy tails tipped with white, are not native to Putah Creek and probably got their start as escapees from valley fur farms, which were established and later abandoned during the first half of the 1900s."

Introduced species, whether plants, fish or mammals, are not politically correct these days, and for good reasons, but I still like to think of Putah Creek as refuge for escapees from a fur farm. Go, fox!

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]

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