Explore Salt Ponds and Marsh at Alviso Marina County Park

Alviso, Ca – Connect with a site that’s a part of one of the largest tidal marsh restoration projects on the west coast. Alviso Marina County Park was formerly an industry-dominated site, but now serves as an amazing entrance to the greater Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

About the Park

Alviso, Ca – Santa Clara County Park 

Science Spotlight: Leopard Sharks at Alviso

When I first learned that there were actual sharks around Alviso, I was in total shock. To me, the idea of the perfect habitat for sharks had always been the open ocean. Thus, you can imagine my surprise when I learned that the area is home to leopard sharks.

Leopard sharks are the most common sharks in the San Francisco Bay estuary, with a range that extends from Oregon to Mexico. They can grow to lengths of up to 7 feet, and feed on invertebrates and fish. To feed, they make a daily migration to shallow areas during high tides.

The San Francisco Bay Area lost much of the tidal marsh and shallow areas utilized by the leopard sharks to development for harvesting salt. As these tidal marshes are restored, researchers are finding that the leopard sharks are returning.

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Leopard shark; Source: © Nathan Rupert, 2009, Flickr Photo Album, some rights reserved.

Park History

Visiting Alviso truly feels like a blast into the past: on your way to the park, you pass by an old cannery site, the warehouses, and a Victorian-style home. The area that is now Alviso Marina County Park used to be receive drainage rich in mercury from the New Almaden Mining District. The site also used to be a heavily-trafficked port area supplying San Jose and a launching point for steamboat passage to San Francisco. When these operations shut down, the area was transformed into salt ponds for salt harvest, operated by the Cargill Salt Company.

The area is now rich with wildlife, providing a feeding and nesting area for many species of birds. Alviso Marina County Park has become a part of the nearby Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Today, the area is part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project (SBSPRP), one of the largest tidal marsh restoration projects on the west coast. Restoration offers new habitat for California wildlife and offers visitors the chance to see nature reclaiming a formerly industry-dominated area.

For more detailed information on the history of Alviso Marina County Park, check out this article by the Mercury News.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are now allowed on trails or walkways. For more detailed information on where dogs are and aren’t allowed, check out the park map.

Alviso Marina County Park serves as the entrance to the greater Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. We encourage you to explore that area as well, time permitting.

Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit:

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Hike Along Streams at Redwood Regional Park

Oakland, Ca – Just outside of the East Bay’s urban sprawl, Redwood Regional offers visitors the chance to see second and third-generation redwoods and a recovering stream habitat.

Species to Look Out For

About the Park

Oakland, Ca – Regional Park

Science Spotlight: Rainbow Trout at Redwood Regional

The rainbow trout is a native Californian fish species, originally found on the western coast of North America. They require good quality water to survive and reproduce. so they have become symbols of healthy American watersheds.

Their introduction to freshwater streams worldwide has resulted in their spread from their historical range. Rainbow trout have now spread to all continents in the world except for Antarctica. However, don’t be fooled by the expanded range – the rainbow trout is facing declines due to loss of quality habitats, pollution, and water diversion (to name a few). As a result, multiple species of steelhead (a special form of rainbow trout whose strategy is to migrate to the ocean as juveniles) are federally listed as endangered or threatened.

The rainbow trout’s freshwater stream habitat at Redwood Regional Park is threatened by erosion. The erosion, caused by heavy traffic from hikers, dogs, and bicyclists, causes accumulation of sediments and a decrease in stream water quality. These effects impact multiple species that use the stream for breeding – including rainbow trout and the “Special Concern”-listed California newt.

To do your part in restoring freshwater streams, be sure to stay on the trails and refrain from allowing pets to enter the stream.

Park History

Redwood Regional Park shares its legacy with many other Bay Area parks as a redwood forest ravaged by logging. The redwoods that remain today are second and third-generation kin to the giants that once stood at the park.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is a $5 vehicle fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes, but an additional fee of $2 is charged per dog.

Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit:

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Visit California’s First State Park: Big Basin State Park

Boulder Creek, Ca – In 1902, Big Basin became California’s first state park. Today, it protects one of the largest continuous stretches of old-growth coast redwood south of San Francisco.

Species to Look Out For

About the Park

Boulder Creek, Ca – State Park

Science Spotlight: Keeping it “Crumb Clean” in California’s Parks

Marbled murrelets are small, robin-sized seabirds that have one very interesting quality: they build their nests high up in redwood trees. Redwood forest habitats have suffered from logging during the gold rush, which in turn has contributed to the steep declines of marbled murrelet populations.

Steller’s Jays and other avian predators have been shown to negatively impact marbled murrelet populations by eating their eggs and young, according to a study at Redwood National and State Parks.

Steller’s jays are crested blue and black birds commonly found at campgrounds, attracted there by food leftover from humans. The high jay density is thought to increase  the chances of Steller’s jays finding and predating the nests of marbled murrelets.

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A common sign at campgrounds, featuring a Steller’s jay and a warning to clean up all traces of food. Source: Save the Redwoods League.

Public education programs, such as the “Crumb Clean” initiative depicted above, warn people that food waste has the potential to impact marbled murrelet populations by attracting their predators.

The moral of the story? Be careful of leaving any trace on your hikes – even a crumb can make a difference!

For more information on marbled murrelets and Steller’s jays, check out the Bay Area Naturalist article “Logging, Crumbs, and Lost Fish: The Story of the Marbled Murrelet“.

Park History

In 1902, Big Basin State Park became the first state park established in California. Its land protects mostly redwood forest and is home to the largest continuous stretch of old-growth redwoods south of San Francisco. Scientists estimate that the older trees in the park range from 1,000 to 2,500 years old.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans inhabited the park’s land for thousands of years. Evidence of the Native American’s land use can be seen in the bowl-like depressions in rocks along the trail. These depressions were used by the Ohlone people to grind seeds and acorns into flour.

In the midst of logging in the late 1800’s, a small group of citizens formed the Sempervirens Club (sempervirens being the species name of coast redwoods). They spurred a movement amongst California’s citizens, which resulted in the creation of a bill to protect the park area. The park is currently over 18,000 acres and growing.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is a $10 vehicle fee at the park. Dogs are not allowed on trails, but are allowed on leashes at picnic areas.

Here are some helpful resources to plan your visit:

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Enjoy a Hike with Your Pooch at Ed R. Levin County Park

Milpitas, Ca – If you’ve got a furry companion, this is the place to be! Ed R. Levin County Park allows dogs on-leash and has an off-leash dog park right near the trail entrance. Perfect for a weekend out with Clifford.

About the Park

Milpitas, Ca – Santa Clara County Park

Visit the Park

If you’ve been hiking around the Bay Area, you know that it’s usually a toss-up as to whether or not dogs are allowed at the park. Ed R. Levin County Park is special, as it allows dogs and has an off-leash dog park.

Please note that there is a $6 vehicle fee to enter the park. Dogs are allowed on leashes.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

Dogs & Parks – Why Restrict Dog Access?

Dogs, especially when off-leash at parks, are in an area with many other wild animals. In some cases, this can lead to unexpected altercations between dogs and wildlife. Thus, keeping dogs off trails is a way to protect them from harmful interactions such as these.

Beyond that, dogs can also pose a threat to wildlife at the park you’re exploring. Many dogs are curious, and will excitedly greet any new acquaintances made on the trail. However, some species, such as the Western snowy plover, are extremely stressed by events such as these. Snowy plovers are already facing steep population declines from habitat loss and disturbance, so protecting their populations from any sort of stress is critical.

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See Spring Wildflowers at Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

Redwood City, Ca – Visit Russian Ridge for the chance to see dazzling displays of wildflowers and hike through a grove of ancient oak trees.

About the Park

Redwood City, Ca – Open Space Preserve

Science Spotlight: Ancient Oaks at Russian Ridge

Russian Ridge offers opportunities to see beautiful views of the Bay Area and gorgeous displays of wildflowers. In addition to the sights, Russian Ridge also offers a piece of California natural history: the chance to see centuries-old oaks on the Ancient Oaks Trail.

The majority of ancient oaks are canyon live oaks, with massive trunks spanning 24 to 56 inches in diameter. Scientists have estimated that trees with 10 to 18-inch trunks are likely 150 years old, meaning that these giants could easily be hundreds of years old.

The spread of Sudden Oak Death throughout California has been cause for concern at Russian Ridge. The pathogen spreads through spores, and results in the sudden browning and consequent death of the infected tree.

Wanting to protect the grove of ancient oaks, any bay laurel trees within 15 feet of the ancient oaks have been removed. Bay laurels are known carriers of the pathogen, so their removal intends to help prevent the disease’s spread to this grove. Visitors are also discouraged from climbing the oaks, as their shoes could carry the pathogen’s spores.

Park History

The Russian Ridge area used to be a dairy farm and cattle grazing land from 1920 – 1950. The operation was run by a Russian immigrant, which resulted later in the naming of the area “Russian Ridge”.

The land began to be acquired in 1978. Today, it is a 3,137 acre preserve run by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are not allowed.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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Enjoy the Stillness of Redwood Stands at Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve

Half Moon Bay, Ca – Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve offers rich history and wildlife. Learn about its recovery from logging and its amphibian resident, the California newt.

Species to Look Out For

About the Park

Half Moon Bay, Ca – Nature Preserve

Science Spotlight: California Newts at Purisima Creek

Dan and I encountered our first California newt while hiking alongside Purisima Creek. We had been on the lookout for newts for the past few weeks, so you can only imagine our excitement when seeing a bright orange amphibian crossing our path.

California newts are found along the coast and mountain ranges of California, from Mendocino County to San Diego County. They are endemic to California, meaning that they are not found outside the state. They live a dual lifestyle, spending half of their time in water and the other half on land.

California newts are listed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife as a “Species of Special Concern”. Ponds that they use for breeding and maturation have been lost to development. Fish, crayfish, and bullfrogs introduced to California’s freshwater areas threaten populations by eating California newt eggs and young.

Look out for California newts during their migration to their breeding grounds, which usually coincides with the first rains in the fall. If you see one of these bright creatures along the trail, be sure to not pick them up! Not only could you disturb them, but their skin is also loaded with a neurotoxin. The toxin, tetrodotoxin, is found in all species in their genus. It is also found in pufferfish.

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A California newt near the creek’s edge at Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve.

Park History

Prior to its status as a nature preserve, the Purisima Creek area housed seven saw mills supplying coast redwood lumber to the booming gold rush population in the San Francisco Bay Area. The entire preserve was cleared of trees that were large and intact enough for lumber.

The Save-the-Redwoods League gifted $2 million to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space, which allowed for the establishment of the park. Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve offers 4,711 acres of recovering coast redwood forest, creeks, and a canyon.

Visit the Park

Please note that there is no entrance fee to enter the park. Dogs are not allowed.

Here are some helpful resources to help plan your visit:

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