Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From Dams to Drains: Adventures along Putah

I originally planned to recount a trip to Lake Berryessa with some friends, however, I decided to expand this post to include some of my other adventures along the 20 mile stretch of Putah Creek from Lake Berryessa to Davis.  The map below shows the locations of these adventures so you can go on a few of your own!

View From Dams to Drains: Adventures along Putah in a larger map

I'll begin with the point furthest west, Lake Berryessa.  Many of my trips here actually occurred a few thousand feet above the lake!  It's a great place to go flying and affords a unique perspective of the area.  Get in touch with some pilots at Cal Aggie Flyers and they may take you on a flight!

Another great way to experienced the lake is by foot.  There are a number of hiking trails to explore and geocaches to find in the Putah Creek State Wildlife Area.  An evening hike to watch the sunset over the lake is an especially good trip.  The lake can also be enjoyed at night.  A campfire by the lake and an midnight swim can be quite the adventure with friends.  I will add a disclaimer here though: the water isnt' the cleanest and I don't know the legalities of campfires in the area, so you might check on this before you go!

Monticello Dam and it's spillway can be seen well from both land and air.  This prominent structure (what creates the man made lake) makes a good halfway point for a round trip bike ride from Davis.  Be sure to watch for cars along the road and take plenty of water and sunscreen because it can get hot during the summer and there are long stretches without shade. Along the way, you can stop in Winters to enjoy the small main street or have lunch in the shade along Putah as you get closer to the dam.

About half way to Winters from Davis, where Road 95A branches off from Russell, is Stevenson's bridge.  This curious bridge is covered in graffiti and can be a fun place to take pictures.  You can climb down below the bridge to see even more graffiti and get a closer look at Putah.  It's a narrow bridge though, so keep an eye out for cars and if you venture below watch for broken glass.

One of the prettier places along Putah is in the UC Davis arboretum.  This redirected branch of the creek flows south of the main campus under bridges and through gardens.  The lawns by Lake Spafford make for a great picnic location.  You'll see students jogging or biking along the paths and plenty of ducks milling about.  The paths are lighted in many areas and safe for an evening walk (or even paddling around in a tub!)

My final adventure along Putah goes underground both physically and figuratively.  After flowing through the arboretum, the creek continues till it empties into a storm drain at Mace Boulevard.  With some effort, the grates can be removed and you can continue underground, but keep in mind this is likely trespassing so continue at your own risk!  The storm drain has one main channel that leads north under Mace with smaller tunnels that you can crawl through branching off the main.  You'll see graffiti on the walls and as the water gets deeper you may spot crayfish or other water creatures.  I've yet to explore the tunnel fully, so the rest remains a mystery!


Marc said...

This is cool. Now did you paddle the whole way?

Glenn Langton said...

ha! No, I can't imagine my vessel was seaworthy enough to last the whole journey.

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