Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, 730 am, 49 degrees,
Chickens call to each other to greet the day on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge, They call across the Village from the parks, hidden in trees, roaming parking lots and streets.
I take a deep breath in as I walk and enjoy the scent of wildflowers in full bloom lining both sides of Bridge Street with blankets of small white flowers. I savor the scents and sounds of spring.
It was already daylight at my first sight of morning at 530 am. The full moon was still pasted in the western sky. Standing now on Fair Oaks Bridge, the sun sits high above the trees in a cloudless sky. Its reflection is so bright, I squint looking toward the boat ramp. The air feels much warmer than 49 degrees when the sun warms my face.
A chorus of birds twitter and chat, flying in groups of more than a dozen as they circle around and underneath the bridge. Way off in the distance on the west side, Canada Geese are shouting at each other. They may have settled on Jim’s Bridge to search for breakfast. I stand alone with the twittering birds and a single rooster calling from Bridge Street. Occasionally a walker or two pass me. The river is deep green and flowing quietly downstream, with few ripples all the way around the bend.
I search for spider webs and see one at least 9” in diameter – a perfect example of geometric lines – stretched from the angular bridge truss to a side rail. A dozen small insects are caught and waiting to be eaten. Directly beneath the web is one more that seems to have been stretched by gusts of wind. A third web hangs on the side rails a few feet from the other two. All on the east side. Rare to see spider webs on the west side.
What gives spiders the talent for spinning perfectly woven webs where all strings are the same size and held together in perfect angles?
I walk over to the boat launch ramp with food for the ducks. They waddle up the boat ramp to investigate their breakfast treat – all the while whispering to each other, quickly nipping and swallowing anything they can find on the ramp. Canada Geese and pigeons arrive. Everyone takes their fill of food. Some ducks keep themselves busy with morning clean-up rituals, while others search the river looking for breakfast. A pair of Canada Geese arrive honking loudly as they circle over the river and take their usual places to watch the river standing on a concrete pier supporting Fair Oaks Bridge. Birds twitter. An Egret lands on a tree top across the river.
Visiting Fair Oaks Bridge continues to be a beautiful and peaceful way to celebrate the morning.
Soft sunlight glows through dense cloud cover. The air is chilled and heavy with moisture.
I hear Canada Geese honking while swimming in the American River as I arrive at Fair Oaks Bridge. The geese fly across the river calling to each other, land on the riverbank nearest the entrance to the bridge. They rise again to settle back down into the river, now joined by another pair of noisy Canada Geese. I notice that all the spider webs have been torn apart by the wind. I walk downhill to the boat launch ramp.
The bike path and driveway in front of the ramp are the center of this mornings’ activity.
A squirrel dashes across the trail, while the resident rooster patrols the street. The rooster walks beside me at first then wanders the dirt alongside the pavement. As I walk toward the boat launch ramp, it rushes to stand beside me. His feet scratch the pavement and feathers swish. As I watch the wildlife at this intersection of driveway and bicycle trail, the rooster continues to shout to no one in particular, over and over again.
Three ducks waddle down the center of the bicycle trail. Two Canada Geese wander in the dirt alongside. As I return to Fair Oaks Bridge. I watch one Canada Goose sit at the top enjoying a sweeping view of the river.
Sunlight today is warm. No wind. Scattered white clouds stretch over the eastern sky like thick cotton batting. I stand and listen to the bird greet me with a song from the overhead truss of Fair Oaks Bridge. I leave the bridge and take the short walk to the boat launch ramp. Five women walk ahead of me. Approaching the boat ramp, I see a family of Canada Geese. The goslings are already nearly full size and the characteristic black strip is growing on their long thin necks.
Birds twitter and rattle. I stay and watch the water, listen to the resident rooster who lives and patrols the area nearby the ramp. He calls out over and over again. Each time I visit the boat ramp and the rooster sees me, he rushes over to walk by side. He is a sad sight – tail feathers drooping, looking like several are missing. I walk slowly back to the bridge, listening to the sounds of the morning.
Cyclists speed past me and a few more people walk by. When I reach the bridge, I stop. I sit down on the deck and feel far away from the “busyness” of urban life. I sit and watch the glow of sunrise in the water. I watch the graceful flight of an Egret fly west under the bridge until I can no longer see it.
This is the time to settle my body and quiet my mind focus on the present moments at the river. I watch the ripples forming in the water as it moves downstream. Long lines form with soft curves flow downstream under the bridge. The curves bend and form circles and continue to swirl.
More cyclists and more walkers pass by. Some focus straight ahead more intent on their steps than the beauty and peace of the setting they are walking through. Some people are talking on their phones, while others are deep in conversation as they walk.
A car pulls into the round parking area in front of the boat ramp and stops. It pauses a few moments and then drives away. Many drivers and w visit the boat launch ramp to enjoy the view. I see them sitting still in their cars, not getting out. Just sitting still and looking out the windows. Walkers come and sit on the memorial bench that faces Fair Oaks Bluff. The Bluff is often referred to as the “Crown of the Parkway.” The steep cliffs eroded over millions of year and the sedimentary rock face clearly defines its history.
As I walk off the bridge, I hear the rooster continue to call out looking for a friend. Two Canada Geese paddle slowly through the water to the riverbank.
Walking along the American River near Fair Oaks Bridge to write, take photos and share these experiences is as much as a healing journey and a reconnection to nature, as it is a time of quiet observation. The river is my place of peace and joy to share as a gift.
This special place at the river…
I believe this sense of peace is a shared feeling for many other visitors who stop on Fair Oaks Bridge to look, reflect and photograph. I see cars park on the road leading to the boat ramp. I see the drivers sit inside and enjoy the scenic views. I see visitors resting on the bench alongside that road facing Fair Oaks Bluff to admire the view.
I am fascinated by the changing patterns of clouds in the sky, and how they filter the sunlight to create vibrant colors of pinks, blues, gold and flaming orange.
I find joyin watching the rhythm of a duck’s webbed feet paddle underwater. I love watching its body sway back and forth as it walks up the boat ramp.
I breathe easily and breathe in deeply. I listen to the sounds of birds, embrace the sweet scent of flowers in bloom, and feel a cool breeze against my skin.
I think of the salmon’s enduring struggle as they swim upstream to spawn. I watch the antics of wildlife as they try to catch a salmon as it swims past them, They guard their dead salmon as a treasure to assure no one steals their feast.
I reflect on its history – a critical resource close to the heart of California’s Gold Rush. To remember the history of seasonal flooding long before Folsom Dam was ever built. To remember the earliest settlers who established Fair Oaks Agricultural Colony by purchasing small farms. Fair Oaks was one of many emerging farm communities in outlying areas of the City of Sacramento.
I recognize all the people who work tirelessly to manage a wild river so it can remain a stable habitat for wildlife who make their home here. This river is also a place for anyone to ride, walk, enjoy and become connected with the outdoor world – and Sacramento’s past, present and future prosperity.
A sense of calm and quiet fills the air as I walk from Bannister Park to Fair Oaks Bridge and boat ramp.
As I stand on Jim’s Bridge, I watch the river move swiftly underneath. The air is so still, I listen to the whoosh of the water flowing downstream. I search for spider webs stretched across the side rails. I listen to birds fill the morning air with songs and enjoy the vibrant green on trees and plants and grass as I pass. The air is still cool and fresh and still. I greet many other walkers and runners also enjoying this peaceful morning. I continue walking down the Jedediah Smith Bicycle Trail toward Fair Oaks Bridge.
Shortly after I walk on to the bridge, an Egret glides underneath it heading west. I always admire the Egret’s graceful, quiet flight and watch until it lands on the riverbank 100 yards away.
One boat sits in the water near the boat ramp. A fisherman stands at the end of the ramp casting in the water, drawing his line in and casting again. I walk down to the boat ramp for a closer look. Halfway across the river is an unusually colored small duck floats in the water. It is different than any other duck normally swimming in the river and continue to wonder about this. Suddenly it disappears. That is when I notice a fisherman throwing his line out and the duck is attached at the end. Once more the duck bobs in the deep green water.
I stand and watch the fishermen throw their lines in, the men in the nearby boat as they sit and wait for a tug on their fishing line. I look up to Fair Oaks Bridge and see walkers, runners and cyclists cross the bridge.
I look across the river corridor at the deep colors of Fair Oaks Bluff and its reflection in the green shimmering water.
The morning is so peaceful, even the two ducks standing in the water at the end of the ramp are standing in quiet contemplation. Occasionally a lonely rooster calls from a distance. Returning to Fair Oaks Bridge, I see two turtles are sunbathing on the log extending from the riverbank parallel to the bridge. They have been away for several weeks. I finished my morning walk not knowing the temperature had risen by more than 10 degrees and that I had been out walking, watching and listening for more than two hours.
Two roosters call to greet me at Bridge Street on my way to Fair Oaks Bridge. Fishermen sit patiently in their boats out in the river. A feeling of peace and calm washes over me as the cool, gentle wind crosses my face. Birds call softly to greet the new day.
So many spider webs line the bridge this morning. I stopped counting at 12. Maybe more than two dozen webs stretched all the way across the rails on the west side of the bridge. They range in size from two inches to eight, all woven into perfect intersecting lines. The sun is a glowing yellow ball of fire hanging in an empty pale blue sky. Runners, walkers and cyclists pass by. No one stops. No one looks side to side.
They all miss the intricate spider webs – graveyards for hundreds of flies hanging in storage for future meals. With so many flies lining the entire span of the bridge, I wonder if catching so many flies is for the sport or the need to eat.
Today I look over the side of the bridge that is closer to the bicycle trail near the riverbank and see a fallen log lying on the river bottom. The tree uprooted during the early 20017 flooding and lays in the same spot as if held captive there to rest. I suspect that many visitors have long forgotten the destruction caused by the flooding when Folsom Dam released heavy water flows down the river. The river still holds memories of that turbulent time.
Visitors crowded the bridge during those weeks of heavy flows to see water swirl in a dizzying frenzy under Fair Oaks Bridge, Sunrise Blvd. and submerging Jim’s Bridge farther west.
Scanning the riverbanks, I can still see trees bent over and debris and tangled bushes lying on the landscape. Animal homes along the banks may still be flooded.
The American River continues to hold its own stories for anyone to discover.
This exhibit presented in the Gallery of California History at the Oakland Museum of California highlighted the critical partnership between Sacramento and the two major rivers that run through its cities and outlying suburbs – the American RiverandSacramento River.
Janice was part of an interpretive writing team. Each writer focused on a single topic to research and write. What’s Happening Sacramento? highlighted the impact of the two rivers on area history, wildlife and ecology, agriculture, economy, recreation and lifestyle, and flooding.
Janice’s role was to research and write about the American River Parkway – a 25-mile greenbelt and bicycle trail that envelops the American River as it winds through the City of Sacramento and neighboring suburbs; and alongside a fish hatchery, parks, an urban farm, CA State University Sacramento and many other assets and facilities. The American River merges with the Sacramento River at the city’s waterfront.
photographs are courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.