Exploring Sausal Creek

One of the treats this year’s abundant winter rains have brought is the revitalization of the Bay Area creeks. As we mentioned in earlier posts, there is something powerful and invigorating about watching your local creek come back to life. Beyond that, getting out and exploring the local watercourses during the winter is a tangible way to connect to the concept of your ‘watershed’. While this may not be a word many grade school kids will throw around in everyday conversation, it is a concept worth discussing. And what better way to do so than by exploring Sausal Creek. Start your hike at Dimond Park where a few carefully placed signs await your family’s eyes. Once there, you can read all about the idea of a watershed (thanks to Friends of Sausal Creek) as well as how to take care of it. When you are done reading  you can walk on up the path where the carefully crafted educational signs morph into a few equally inspiring, if lower budget, hand painted signs reminding visitors that “only water should go into the Bay”.

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(one of the carefully crafted signs courtesy of Friends of Sausal Creek)

Sausal Creek is one of the major creeks in Oakland, forming from the confluence of the North Fork (or Shepherd Creek) and the South Fork (or Palo Seco Creek). It runs from the hills down into the flatlands where it flows through Dimond Canyon, the San Antonio district and empties into the Oakland Estuary. While the lower reaches are covered and run through culverts, the upper reaches (from Dimond Park eastward) are mostly exposed and accessible via foot travel. There is one area which is impassable at high water but it’s quite a ways up, and there is a detour trail to go around it.

We started our hike at Dimond Park and while said rains did make hiking up Sausal Creek a little more challenging than in drier times, there was still plenty of creekside trail to meander along without ending up with soggy feet. The trail winds up petering out, if you stay creekside on Dimond Canyon Trail, but if you do a little rock hopping and cross the creek onto Old Canon Trail you can make your way up some switch backs to the top of the hill to continue your journey. From there you can traverse Old Canon trail under the historic Leimert Bridge and connect up with Bridgeview trail to further advance upstream. As we only had about 2 hours, and our 3 and 6 year olds decided to turn our hike into a trail running adventure, we opted to turn around after the series of switchbacks that Bridgeview climbs in order to not push our luck in the trail running excitement department. This seemed to work out perfectly as there was still plenty of enthusiasm for running most of the way back. The only regret was that we didn’t make it up to the exciting tunnel that you go through to cross under Mountain Blvd.

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Hiking up Sausal Creek is a great way to immerse yourself in your watershed. The trails stay close enough to the water that there is ample opportunity to watch for fish and amphibians alike, and the soothing sounds of flowing water have a way of easing one’s worries and bringing the moment into focus. As we witnessed with the children in our group, the sense of freedom and happiness that the creek and its surrounding trails transmitted was contagious. Whether you choose to go out for a 10 minute walk up the creek and turn around, or you follow it all the way up to the headwaters of Palo Seco Creek into Joaquin Miller Park, Sausal Creek is a great place to “get away” from the city life without leaving the city.

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After a rough history with varying attempts to divert, cover, and bury the creek the popular opinion has finally come around to restoring it. Since 1996 Friends of Sausal Creek have been the driving force in efforts to protect and restore the creek for future generations.  We highly recommend checking out their volunteer programs and lend your hand in preserving it.

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