Northern California Nature Weekends  by Jeanne L. Clark and Robert W. Garrison

Northern California Nature Weekends Guide Book

by Jeanne L. Clark and Robert W. Garrison (Falcon Guides)
Northern California Nature Weekends  by Jeanne L. Clark and Robert W. Garrison
Every season offers new reasons to get outside and explore-if you know when and where to go. Northern California Nature Weekends provides all the information you need to plan fifty-two great weekend getaways - from excursions for the serious naturalist to casual outings for the whole family. Some experiences are off the beaten track, such as celebrating the acorn harvest with the Miwok Indians, watching for bald eagles at Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, or canoeing through the Cosumnes River Preserve. You'll also find plenty of new twists on familiar California treasures, with opportunities to: Rent a houseboat on Shasta Lake, where more than 360 miles of shoreline await exploration; watch for whales at Bodega Bay with the San Andreas Fault beneath your feet; and sip wine at a Sonoma County villa overlooking legions of geese on a cattail-lined wetland. Let Northern California Nature Weekends help you explore the outdoors any time of year.

© 2005 Jeanne L Clark and Robert W Garrison/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Northern California Nature Weekends" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 52.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 52.

Take this rare opportunity to enjoy one of the Central Valley's top birding locations from your vehicle. See grasslands literally flocked with white geese, crowds of ducks, and ribbons of shorebirds. Stretch your legs on one of many easy hikes for close-up viewing. Central Valley travelers on California Highway 99 or Interstate 5 often push the speed limit to pass through what appears to be a monotonous landscape of flat farm fields and orchards that extends for miles. Unseen by the motorist, much of the year several huge wildlife oases offer an exciting diversion and a respite from freeway travel. High above California's busy roads, each fall millions of waterfowl, shorebirds, birds of prey, and songbirds navigate highways in the sky to escape harsh northern weather and pass the winter in the temperate Central Valley.
Los Banos, CA - Nature Trips - Trail Length: 130
Watch hundreds of ducks bank, wing to wing, as they land on a quiet pond. Listen to their vibrant calling and chuckling as they feed and preen. Hear their wings churn the wind?and then the sudden silence after they depart. Breathe the crisp winter air and let the serenity of the marsh fill you with calm. Did you put ?connect with nature," reduce stress,? or ?lose a few pounds? on your list of New Year's resolutions? If you did, the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex may be just the place to do them all! From lush wetlands and vernal pools filled with winter rain to the shady curves of the Sacramento River, the Sacramento, Colusa, and Sacramento River NWRs offer nature, tranquility, and ample opportunities to hike.
Willows, CA - Nature Trips
The fins of leopard and smoothhound sharks cut through the shallow ribbons of water in Elkhorn Slough as shorebirds feed nearby. In the main channel, dozens of sea otters groom and feed while harbor seals bask on the muddy banks. Tucked on the edge of Monterey Bay, Elkhorn Slough winds inland almost 7 miles through some of the richest and rarest habitats in California. More than 2,500 acres of tidal salt marshes and freshwater marshes are protected within the watershed. Coastal oak woodlands, grasslands, and rare coastal maritime chaparral are found in the uplands. This mosaic of water, mudflats, and sandy hillsides was created as an ancient river cut through the sandy plain, creating the slough and adjoining Monterey Bay Submarine Canyon before the San Andreas Fault cut off its flow to the east. Today only seasonal creeks drain into the slough but the daily tidal flow from Monterey Bay brings fresh nutrients to the microscopic plants and animals that, in turn, feed hundreds of species of wildlife.
Monterey, CA - Nature Trips - Trail Length: 5
A short drive from suburban communities, but a century back in time, Sunol Regional Wilderness preserves the historic ranchlands of the East Bay hills, where cattle still graze on the open hillsides and wildlife thrive along meandering Alameda Creek. Sunol Regional Wilderness lies in the rugged East Bay hills, surrounded by San Francisco Water Department lands that link Del Valle Regional Park to the northeast and Mission Peak Regional Park to the west. These public lands protect important wildlife corridors and watersheds and offer miles of hiking and equestrian trails. The Ohlone Wilderness Trail extends 28 miles from Del Valle through Sunol to Mission Peak, where it connects to the Bay Area Ridge Trail running along the crest of the East Bay hills. The Bay Area Ridge Trail is an ongoing effort to create 400 continuous miles of trails along the ridgetops surrounding the bay.
Sunol, CA - Nature Trips
Thousands of fall-run chinook salmon crowd Battle Creek to spawn in the shallow gravel beds and at the nearby hatchery. In the upper reaches of the watershed, other runs of salmon facing extinction are given a helping hand to reverse a century of abuse. Coleman National Fish Hatchery was built on Battle Creek in the 1940s to compensate for the construction of Shasta Dam on the Sacramento River and produces more than thirteen million fall- and late-fall-run chinook salmon and 600,000 steelhead trout.
Anderson, CA - Nature Trips
Soaring and gliding on powerful wings, thousands of birds of prey pass over the highest point in the Marin Headlands each fall, a spectacular sight in an incredible setting. After you watch their aerial acrobatics, visit the lagoon, walk to the lighthouse, or stop at the marine mammal rehabilitation center. Every fall birds of prey such as Cooper's hawks, ospreys, and golden eagles leave Canada and Alaska for milder climates to the south. They ride prevailing winds and soar on thermal currents along the Pacific coastline, always staying within sight of land. When they reach the Marin Headlands, each fall more than 20,000 may pass within sight of the highest point in the headlands before continuing their journey across the bay. This gathering point, called Hawk Hill, is located within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the largest urban national parks in the world. Spanning San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin Counties, the entire recreation area encompasses 75,000 acres and 28 miles of coastline. The area includes numerous sites, including Alcatraz, Fort Funston, Fort Mason, and Muir Woods National Monument. This sweeping landscape protects 1,250 historic structures, more than two dozen threatened and endangered species, and several imperiled habitats that are dwindling in the crowded Bay Area.
Sausalito, CA - Nature Trips
An active volcano sleeps on its western shore, mineral springs bubble up from its depths, and migratory birds from other nations seek sanctuary at Clear Lake, where tranquility and a slow pace reign throughout the winter. The holidays are almost here and you can probably use a break from shopping, crowds, and life indoors. While natural areas near urban settings are probably jammed, a quiet slice of nature may be just a few hours? drive for many northern Californians. Most think of Clear Lake as a summer lake, with its strong reputation for water sports and fishing. But the state's largest natural lake set in an oak savanna also has an incredible Pomo Indian presence, boasts outstanding winter birding, and can offer a beautiful, uncrowded respite during the busy holidays.
Kelseyville, CA - Nature Trips - Trail Length:
Escape the congested roadways and hectic cities of the Bay Area for a day of biking, walking, and kayaking on and around Angel Island State Park. A twenty-minute ferry ride transports you to a place where bikes outnumber cars, historic buildings reflect important stories of our past, and every vista takes your breath away. Angel Island State Park is a place of scenic beauty and natural diversity, but the layers of human history reflected in the old buildings and building sites provide the context for your visit.
Tiburon, CA - Nature Trips
Crescent City celebrates the recovery of the Aleutian Canada goose population, which expanded from near-extinction to more than 50,000 strong, at a five-day wildlife festival. The geese arrive in the area to refuel before flying nonstop over 2,000 miles to their breeding grounds in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. For nearly twenty-five years, the Aleutian Canada goose was thought to be extinct. The birds nest on the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, and the release of nonnative arctic foxes on many of the islands in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries destroyed most breeding colonies. In 1963, 200 to 300 geese were discovered on isolated Buldir Island. Eighteen were captured and formed the basis of a recovery program. The bird was officially listed as endangered in 1967.With help from some of their wild relatives, captive-reared geese finally learned the migration route to their wintering habitat in California. The geese have made a remarkable comeback, thanks to extensive recovery efforts that included removing foxes from previous nesting islands; captive breeding and reintroducing the birds to the islands; establishing national wildlife refuges in their California habitat; and hunters? support of hunting bans in Alaska, Oregon, and California. Now more than 50,000 strong, the Aleutian Canada goose was removed from the Federal Endangered Species List in 2001.
Crescent City, CA - Nature Trips
Thousands of huge king salmon fight their way up the American River to return to the place of their birth to spawn and die, oblivious to the state's largest wildlife festival celebrating their return. The great rivers of the Central Valley once supported huge runs of chinook salmon and steelhead trout before the rivers were dammed to water the rich farmlands and cities of the state. Before the dams, salmon and steelhead traveled high into the Sierra Nevada and Cascades to spawn in the gravel beds. On the American River alone, more than 100 miles of spawning beds were lost when Folsom Dam was built in 1955. To offset the loss of spawning habitat, Nimbus Hatchery was constructed at the foot of Lake Natoma. The hatchery raises four million chinook salmon and 430,000 steelhead trout each year. Below the hatchery, salmon crowd the few miles of remaining natural gravel beds. Of the twenty to fifty thousand salmon that return to the American River each year, more than 80 percent are fish that spawn in the river.
Rancho Cordova, CA - Nature Trips
Reflect on the natural gifts that enrich our lives in so many ways and contemplate the future year from the summit of Mount Diablo. At 3,849 feet, Mount Diablo may not be the tallest peak, but what it lacks in height is more than made up for by its setting. Sitting on the western edge of Central Valley and surrounded by much lower Bay Area foothills, Mount Diablo rises from the plains and dominates the skyline. From the top, views extend in all directions?west over San Francisco Bay and the Farallon Islands, north to Mount Lassen, east over the delta and Central Valley to the Sierra Nevada, and south to Mount Hamilton and the Santa Cruz Range. No other mountain in California offers views over a larger portion of the state.
Walnut Creek, CA - Nature Trips
Ride a bicycle, hike the trails, and bring a picnic to enjoy at a scenic park while you experience Sacramento's American River Parkway. The lush green corridor of shady trees hugging the American River will help you forget that you are really in the midst of a busy urban area. Considered by many to be the true jewel of Sacramento, the American River Parkway is a 32-mile protected greenbelt flanking the river from Old Sacramento, where it joins the Sacramento River, to Nimbus Dam in Rancho Cordova and beyond to the town of Folsom. Although some land had been purchased before this, the County of Sacramento had the wisdom to protect this highly coveted river frontage beginning in the 1960s, safeguarding this natural riparian corridor from development and for enjoyment. The Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail runs its entire length and was named for the famed explorer, who was the first American to reach California overland by crossing the Sierra Nevada Range.
Sacramento, CA - Nature Trips
Our nation's symbol is back from the brink of extinction. Lake San Antonio has the largest wintering population of once-endangered bald eagles in central and southern California. Watch from shore, or take a guided boat tour. Camp out, rent a cabin?and bring a bike or your favorite water sport equipment for a relaxing weekend. If you?re itching for an easy getaway, put Lake San Antonio on your list. This 16-mile-long lake set in an oak woodland and located about 20 miles inland from the Central Coast offers something for everyone who loves the outdoors. One of its big claims to fame is the international crowd it draws. Bald eagles traveling the Pacific Flyway from cold northern regions pass the winter here, forming the largest gathering of eagles in central and southern California. The big, majestic birds attract visitors from around the world. Like the avid human anglers who frequent the lake, eagles feast on the stripers, catfish, crappie, and bluegill the lake supports, as well as wintering waterfowl that travel the flyway.
Lockwood, CA - Nature Trips
A great egret flies, gliding on air currents with his powerful wings. He calls, stretches his neck skyward, and then raises the elegant nuptial plumes on his back. You are there?apart from this courting ritual to win a mate but also part of a moment that is timeless. The rugged southern flank of Mt. Tamalpais includes Bolinas Ridge, where four steep canyons forested with redwoods overlook a sweep of sandy beach and a tidal lagoon. More than just pretty coastal scenery, this thousand acres of canyon forest and shoreline offer nesting and nearby feeding areas to some of nature's most dramatic wading birds: great blue herons and great and snowy egrets.
Stinson Beach, CA - Nature Trips
From a solitary pup born on the beach in 1975 to well over 2,000 births a year today, the beaches and dunes of A¤o Nuevo State Reserve support the second largest mainland colony of northern elephant seals in the world. By 1892 decades of commercial hunting reduced the vast colonies of northern elephant seals to just one colony of fewer than one hundred animals on Guadalupe Island off Baja California. The seals were officially protected by Mexico and the United States in the 1920s and slowly began to recolonize the islands along the Pacific coast. By 1955 solitary elephant seals arrived on A¤o Nuevo Island, and the first birth occurred there in 1961. As the island population grew, adults began moving to the mainland beaches, where the first pup was born in 1975.Today the mainland beaches and dunes of A¤o Nuevo State Reserve support the second largest mainland colony of northern elephant seals in the world. The largest mainland colony occurs at Piedras Blancas, north of San Simeon.
Santa Cruz, CA - Nature Trips - Trail Length: 3
Hike on uncrowded trails, camp in an alpine meadow, and soak in hot mineral water from middle earth?all in Alpine County, the least-populated county in the state. Six thousand feet above sea level, a glacier-carved valley borders the Mokelumne Wilderness. Within this beautiful valley of pine forests, meadows, and streams lies Grover Hot Spring, a 700-acre park known for its relaxing campground and a soothing hot pool fed by natural hot springs.
Markleeville, CA - Nature Trips
With glittering Lake Tahoe in the distance, follow a boardwalk through a quiet marsh to an underground chamber, where huge windows take you into the world of spawning salmon in October and creek life throughout the year. The crown jewel of California's lakes is a glittering sapphire set in a rough ring of forest-clad granite peaks. Scoured from glaciers millions of years ago, today Lake Tahoe's crystal clear water remains legendary. So is its size. The Washoe Indians who camped by its shores receive credit for naming this famous lake. At least one version suggests that ?tahoe? aptly means ?big lake." Even the Washoe might have been surprised that this high-mountain lake, at 1,645 feet deep, is the third deepest in North America. It holds so much water that it could cover the entire state with a depth of 14 inches!
South Lake Tahoe, CA - Nature Trips
Ride a bicycle or horse, hike, or cross-country ski along the rugged Susan River Canyon on a former railroad line, complete with bridge trestles, tunnels, many favorite swimming holes, and outstanding scenery. Can you imagine old steam trains traveling the Fernley to Lassen Branch Line laden with logs, chugging along a forest canyon dotted with logging camps? This was the scene a century ago, when trains regularly ran this route that includes an incredibly scenic portion of the Susan River Canyon. The railroad line waned with the closing of the Westwood lumber companies in the mid-1950s. After Southern Pacific abandoned the line in 1978, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and local interests worked with Congressman Harold ?Bizz? Johnson to acquire the right-of-way for recreational purposes. It became one of just two BLM projects funded by Congress in 1980 and is one of the highlights of the national Rails-to-Trails system. BLM then worked with the USDA Forest Service to purchase privately owned parcels within the trail corridor.
Susanville, CA - Nature Trips
With sun and surf, pocket beaches, and trees with fluttering butterflies, Natural Bridges State Beach offers incredible scenery, an education, and a welcome respite from Santa Cruz boardwalk crowds. For years on end, wind and waves gnawed at the mudstone cliffs buttressing the Santa Cruz coast, undercutting here, pounding there. By the early 1900s these forces had created three natural rock arches that were gradually severed from shore. Locals called these landmarks the natural bridges. Since then, nature has continued its rough treatment. Only one of the three arches still stands, but the name Natural Bridges remains. Its rugged coastal scenery, sheltered pocket beach, glistening tidepools, and upland trails would alone make Natural Bridges State Beach a draw for people and coastal wildlife alike. But it is a small, velvet-winged traveler that gives this state beach its special distinction. Every year, tens of thousands of monarch butterflies return to Natural Bridges to spend the winter. The park was established in 1933 specifically to preserve this important monarch butterfly wintering site, and is one of a few monarch preserves in the state.
Santa Cruz, CA - Nature Trips
Rafts of waterfowl, historic buildings, and guided tours are just a few of the highlights of the San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival. This once-a-year peek into the Navy's first installation on the West Coast and some of the most unspoiled salt marsh habitat and scenic vistas in the San Francisco Bay Area is a January must. Mare Island was the first U.S. naval station built on the West Coast, in 1853. Huge dry docks, the first constructed with Sierra granite, were used to build and refit wooden steam and sailing ships and later, steel ships and submarines. The last ship assembled at Mare Island was the nuclear submarine U.S.S. Drum, launched in 1970. The base was decommissioned in 1996. For architecture fans, buildings on the base range from the industrial docks, with their historic brick warehouses and modern cranes, to the stately mansions on officer's row. The adjoining craftsman-style chapel displays the largest number of Tiffany Studio stained-glass windows in the West. Plans are under way to redevelop the industrial and residential portions of the island, and most of the area is closed to the public except during special events.
Vallejo, CA - Nature Trips