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Creek Running North
October 12, 2003
Down in the creek
The creek is very low this week. Through Fernandez Park it's not so much creek as a rosary of stagnant pools, connected one to the next by slow trickles through the watercress.
Downstream, the grade increases slightly through the Corps of Engineers riprap. The local creek group is planning to recontour the lower reaches, hoping to restore some semblance of the historic meanders and riparian vegetation to the 1965-vintage straight-line drainage ditch. With water this low, though, flowing probably less than a cubic foot per second, meanders reappear on their own. The creek bounces back and forth off each artificial bank. Stranded pools form miniature oxbow lakes. Cutbanks two inches high form in the fetid silt, collapse, and form again upstream. Birds seek steelhead fry and sticklebacks in the shrinking pools.
Sometime soon - probably not tonight, but perhaps next week, and almost certainly by December - the rains will come. Trickling from the slopes of Pinole and Sobrante ridges, they'll freshen the creek's tributaries as the water begins its bayward journey - along with the summer's crop of soil, insects, motor oil, seeds, coffee cups. Out in San Pablo Bay the steelhead will congregate just off the Pinole Shoals, waiting. When the taste and temperature of the water change, they'll push past the newly paved Bay Trail, past the trestle and the park, under the freeway and into the hills to spawn.
But not yet. The snowy egrets must content themselves with smaller fare, the water barely covering their bright yellow feet.