Archive for the ‘Sausal Creek watershed’ Category

Fallen trees

30 May 2016

Naturally, the people of a city named Oakland cherish their trees.

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But trees are living things, and every one must die at some point. After years of drought plus one wet winter, I’ve noticed a lot of downed trees. This one was in Leona Heights, an oak. When oaks topple, that’s the end of them.

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This one, a bay laurel, was in Joaquin Miller Park. Fallen bay trees commonly reroot, which is a handy thing in their preferred moist habitat.

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Fallen trees may interest field geologists because as their roots rip out, they expose the bedrock in areas with thick vegetation. Thus information from “tree throws” can help in mapping the rocks. For instance, I inspected the rocks uprooted by this tree . . .

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. . . and noted that they were typical mudstone of the Joaquin Miller Formation. The park is the formation’s type area, after all.

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Another treefall farther downstream exposed serpentinite. (The two very different rock types are separated by the Chabot fault.)

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Sometimes data points like these are the only way to get a handle on steep, vegetated terrain.

Research-type geologists consider “tree throw” a significant actor in the evolution of wooded landscapes (here’s a taste from a recent conference).

Down by the water, especially along the smaller creeks, fallen bay laurels often span the stream and root on both sides. Sometimes it’s charming, like here above Dunsmuir House, but it’s usually a hassle if you’re trying to walk along the streambed.

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To hydrologists — geologists who specialize in streams — fallen trees are a crucial part of stream systems. Natural streams always contain some amount of dead wood, because it lasts for years before it rots away or burns up.

Wood doesn’t act like sand and gravel. It doesn’t wash away easily, it sticks around and snags stuff. So making a realistic model of stream behavior requires a sophisticated understanding of how this “wood load” affects the water. Hydrology journals publish a steady trickle of papers on this topic.

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Most of us would rather that trees stayed standing and streambeds stayed clear. That only happens in landscaped parks. To know nature, you have to learn to appreciate snags.

Fruit Vale

27 June 2013

The valley of Sausal Creek below Dimond Canyon made a natural site for orchards: a nice flat floodplain with decent soil and a permanent stream off on the western side. Also, the valley is straight to a degree that strikes me as unusual, which is handy for laying out blocks of land. It may or may not have been filled with oaks—I have a copy of an old print titled “Oaks of Oakland” that purports to be from this area. In any case it has a classic shape with a flat floor and steep sides formed by the Oakland alluvial fan (the Fan). I’ve shown the high, landslide-prone western side before; here’s the eastern side. This is the view from the Fruitvale freeway exit looking up Harold Street, where the valley wall is pretty dramatic.

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Farther down, the valley wall fades away well before you get to Foothill Boulevard, which everywhere marks the edge of the Fan. Here at Fruitvale Boulevard and Bona Street, the valley wall is already lower and more subdued.

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It looks like I’ll name this lobe of the Fan the Patten lobe. The valley of Peralta Creek is just over the hill. It’s interesting to speculate why the Peraltas put their rancho buildings there rather than here.

Sneak creek peek

22 February 2013

Sausal Creek has escaped culverting in a large part of its course. Between Dimond Park and the freeway, it mostly runs through people’s back yards, but you can spot it looking downstream from MacArthur Boulevard across from Canon Avenue:

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. . . and farther down, looking upstream from a spot at the intersection of Dimond Avenue and Montana Street.

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It’s culverted from here all the way down to the end of Hickory Street, directly below the miserable house on McKillop Street. Maybe it’s safer to say that the creek is covered, because even this open stretch has walls hemming it in.


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