I look forward to every morning sunrise on the Fair Oaks Bridge, and the American River Parkway to discover and celebrate the gifts of the outdoor world.
The American River Parkway is “The Jewel of Sacramento.” Fair Oaks Bluffs are the “Crown Jewels.”
One Sunday morning in September I decide to get up early and watch the wildlife wake up at the Fair Oaks Bridge. I arrive at dawn before the sun rises over the trees.
This morning wake up is now a regular activity, generally spending an hour or more to watch, listen and write. I can easily ride my bicycle to the bridge along the bike path – an activity I usually reserve for later in the morning.
“I don’t know where it is possible to love the planet or not, but I do know that it is possible to love the places we can see, touch, smell and experience.”
David Orr, Earth in Mind
The Fair Oaks Bridge was completed in 1909. It is a “Truss” bridge and an icon for the community of Fair Oaks. Fair Oaks Village is widely known for its chickens, whose wake up calls provide music each morning and continue throughout the day. Chickens are featured throughout blog posts in photos and video.
The bridge connects Fair Oaks Village with the American River Parkway, stretching 37 miles through suburban communities of Sacramento and into the city. The bridge sits alongside the Fair Oaks Bluffs – also displayed in many photographs within blog posts. Fair Oaks Bridge is one of those places for me to see, touch, smell and experience! The community of Fair Oaks is located about 15 miles northeast of the city of Sacramento. Our family home for more than 20 years and Fair Oaks Bridge remains one of my favorite places.
When I arrive at Fair Oaks bridge, the sun has yet to rise over distant trees on the opposite shore of the American River. I focus my attention on the river landscape and notice so many different habitats for wildlife here. The roosters are the most obvious – they are always the loudest! I have seen Great Blue Herons on the river, Egrets, Canada Geese and a wide variety of ducks. I saw an owl one time and river otters occasionally. Trees, fallen logs, shrubs, and the island farther upstream are excellent hiding places. The river itself, now more shallow than it has been in a long while, creates homes too. The bridge is also home to bats hidden underneath in specially formed concrete slots.Read more
Clouds cover the sky. Raindrops fall on my windshield. In the 10 minutes it takes for me to walk to the river, the sky has already brightened. The raindrops that fall on the bridge quickly evaporate. I feel a cool breeze blow against my face. This is the first moisture of late summer and in a few minutes the drizzle has passed.
Roosters wake up the neighborhood with their calls – one crowing and another responds. Far fewer roosters are awake. Maybe the chill has kept them hiding in trees a little longer?
I know the morning sun has risen over the trees. Yet I cannot see it today hidden behind dense cloud cover.Read more
As I drive through the Village, residents are walking about holding steaming cups of coffee and warm their hands. Where are the people? Morning walkers? cyclists? I walk slowly down to the bridge. A few roosters greet me. Their wake up calls are long over.
I arrive and do my regular check for new spider webs and spiders. Where are the spiders? So many webs cover the bridge frame and the spiders have left. I keep looking. Maybe the temperatures are too cool for them? I have walked the bridge many times in summer and seen a dozen spiders doing their daily work.
Cyclists in matching attire rumble past me. Always in a hurry, speeding by as fast as they can ride. The only words ever spoken are “on your left” or “bikes up.” The bridge always shakes when cylists pass by. Even a heavy runner causes the bridge to vibrate. Pairs of walkers engaged in deep conversation pass by not even looking to either side of the bridge.Read more
The sky is covered with what looks like strips of pale blue and white cotton candy. At 6 pm, no sun to be found. The air feels cool and I wear my zip up hooded sweatshirt.
No birds are out. A few ducks are out for a leisurely swim. I hear splashes in the water and look to the sound and see rings of concentric circles. Must have been a salmon jumped out and dove back in quickly. Since my last visit I see that rain has fallen on the bridge. The intricate networks of spider webs and flytraps are washed clean away off the bridge upright and cross beams. Not a trace is left. The air is heavy with the scent of moist dirt, yet clean and refreshed by gentle rain.
Two boats and a kayak sit in the water. A few cyclists pass and some walkers out for a evening stretch before sunset. I walk to the boat launch ramp and the ducks see me coming. Today I have no bread to throw.
A dozen ducks gather and walk up the ramp and wait. They look at me impatiently as if to say, “Where is the food?”
After a few minutes when they realize no food is coming, they all retreat back into the water. In minutes some have disappeared to hiding places on either side of the ramp. The dabblers decide to find food on their own.Read more
Clouds that blanketed the sky last night are gone. A few scattered brush strokes of color hang in the sky glowing with morning light as the sun rises behind them.
I left home at 635 and see brightness to the west just now rising over neighboring trees. Streets are dark. My car windshield is covered with drops from misty air. I wear my hooded sweatshirt again this morning, long pants and warm socks. This morning’s temperature is 51 degrees. I drive with headlights into the Village. In the 10 minutes it takes me to reach the bridge, the sky is bright and daylight fills the sky. All traces of night have vanished.Read more
When I left home, the air temperature was 50 degrees and the morning light was emerging from the east. By the time I park my car, the temperature had dropped to 49. Mist covered my car windows. Sunrise is scattered pinks and oranges as the sun shines through scattered clouds.
So far the roosters crowing to wake up the day are the only living creatures I see moving. No cars or people moving.
This morning I ride to the Fair Oaks Bridge, waiting until 8:40 when the day warms up a little more. The air blows cold against my face and I wear long riding pants and a sweatshirt. Boats are abundant this morning – nine on the west side of the bridge and three more on the east side. Seagulls are still on watch.
The photo shows the river as a silent pool in the foreground and fast moving rapids in the background divided by a narrow wall of rocks. Fishermen stand on the opposite riverbank – as they do many days this time of year when the salmon return home.
I wonder how many different species of wildlife – birds, waterfowl and insects live along this river? I have seen snakes, coyotes, wild turkeys, squirrels, deer and rabbits.
Fair Oaks bridge is home to both spiders and pigeons. Roosters hide in trees in Fair Oaks Village and on the banks of the river. I keep searching the trees to find the singing roosters. Haven’t find them yet.
Fallen logs are great places to hide. Still looking for the river otter family that lives near the fallen log near the bridge. I can only guess that the river with its varying depths is home to frogs and crabs in addition to the ducks and Canada Geese I see daily. Several places along the river, islands sit in the middle as a resting place for ducks and geese. The birds and the fisherman know the shallow areas of the river lined with gravel are ideal spawning beds for Chinook Salmon.
Hundreds of cyclists and dozens of walkers are on the trail today. A line of six inline skaters roll past me.
So many sights, sounds and discoveries on this short section of the 33-mile long trail.
As I stand looking at the river, I see a man that could be a grandfather walking with his young grandson. My mind instantly wanders. I wonder what lies ahead for salmon in this boy’s lifetime? What is the future for all wildlife that depends on the health of the American River – and rivers everywhere when the morning begins as a new day.
I see cyclists crossing the Hazel Avenue Bridge – a newly expanded and modernized bridge to accommodate additional cars. I see a complex network of structures – a bridge for cars and bicycle trails, the dam on one side and the weir on the other. Looking at this network reminds me that I am still in an urban area congested with traffic, people, businesses, retailers and a host of other community services and amenities. This place is less than 20 miles from city, county and state government leaders who make long term decisions that affect the health of this river and all other California rivers.
These intersections on the river where salmon come home, cyclists ride, and people drive, is part of the larger story of our environmental challenges – water supply, climate change, urbanization, noise and sustaining healthy habitats. Yet, here where the salmon come home presents so many opportunities to inform, educate and inspire positive change.
Despite the gentle rain, roosters are conducting their morning concert. They are still singing when I arrive. They crow hiding in trees from a distance of several blocks.
Pigeons circle the bridge. An egret begins its usual lone morning walk along the shore beginning at the boat ramp. While standing at the boat launch ramp, my daughter and I see a goose with a cocked feather. We have seen this one before. We know these geese call this part of the river their home.
Ducks arrive quietly for their leisurely morning swim. Turkey vultures are sitting on the edge of branches at the tops of trees. Geese are busy eating the remains of a salmon. More Canada geese fly in. None of the waterfowl appear to notice the gentle rain as it falls on their backs and drops into the river.Read more