Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge or American River Parkway create a foundation to begin my day. I arrive late today, at 9 am. The Fair Oaks Village neighborhood is fully awake. My walks usually pass through quiet streets at 630 or 7am. Now they are filled with rushing cars. A pickup truck appears from a side street and sputters off. Roosters quiet, except for an occasional call to grab attention. They have emerged from the trees and walk the park looking for breakfast. A few early morning fishermen are still in their boats.
I enjoy learning the patterns of the morning – the fishermen are always first before dawn! Ducks emerge next. The pigeons arrive flying in their circle dance, then the smaller birds greet me from the top of the bridge. Geese sleep late and most of them arrive long after the ducks have already finished their morning grooming. Egrets keep themselves hidden. It is a gift to see one or two arrive later in the morning.
Why do pigeons settle on one side of the bridge? Is it warmer there?
Cyclists arrive at 630 wearing headlamps and continue crossing the bridge all day long. Some carrying backpacks commuting to work. Some dressed in cycling attire out for pleasure or training rides. The walkers come by 7 am. Walkers with dogs are always out for early morning walks.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
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.
A beautiful fall morning of 52 degrees – a chilly wind greets me and I am glad to be wearing a sweatshirt as I ride to the Fair Oaks Bridge and along the bike trail. Only one fishing boat is left in the river. The shadows are changing and the sun bright. Ducks swim leisurely in the river. I pass by several scenic picnic areas that face the river. This overlook is a walk to river. Always crowded with fishermen. Even the pigeons know its fall and salmon are coming.
I ride to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery to see the weir that blocks the river so salmon are forced up into the fish ladder. By November, thousands of salmon will be leaping up the ladder. Soon hundreds of students and families will have line the fish ladder watching the spectacle, with their chorus of “oohs” and “aaah” and “wow!”
As a former tour guide, I asked students, “How high does a salmon jump?” “Why do we have dams?” and “How can we help keep the river a healthy place for salmon and other fish and wildlife to live?”
“Will this year be a good Chinook Salmon run?” is what CA Dept of Wildlife staff may be wondering. “What impact will the drought have on this year’s salmon run?” “Is the water too shallow?” “Too warm?” “Too acidic?” “Will enough eggs survive to continue the species?”
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
Drizzle rain stops and starts again. Still very few people outside at 11 am. A warm rain. River is very quiet with cloudy skies and no rain. Ducks search the river for food, wings flap. Faint quacks. Canada geese change position and fly away. A cloudy sky and all is quiet. Boaters sit calmly in the water. The gentle, nourishing rain is a refreshing and welcome change.
Earlier boaters in their rain jackets have sped away heading east toward the weir positioned at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery where the salmon converge to spawn – either in the river or inside the hatchery. Birds patrol the sky. Turkey vultures wait patiently, ready to pounce on whatever has died. I find salmon heads cast off into the rocks. Soon these remains will be consumed by hungry turkey vultures, seagull or other wildlife that find them first.