I begin the day by listening to the chicken’s morning calls in Fair Oaks Village. I stop and enjoy their morning concert.
Today a pale blue, cloudless sky is tinged with gray at the horizon. A gentle breeze blows on Fair Oaks Bridge as sunlight glares on the water. I meet a couple looking over the side of the bridge and ask what they are looking at. They are looking for the beaver that was eating a salmon whole by stripping the meat right off the bones. They showed me where to look on the shoreline to find its home. I also found out they sighted two river otters and a seal that wandered far from its home turf into the American River one day.Read more
The day is peaceful and quiet. I sit alone on the boat launch ramp with the seagull, the Canada Geese and ducks paddling around the river on this sparkling, clear and cloudless blue sky.
One very unhappy seagull calls out over and over again while standing one the end of the boat launch ramp. Fifteen ducks swim and fly in shortly after I appear on the boat ramp thinking I have food. I throw a mandarin orange segment on the ground that was quickly rejected by several ducks. Pigeons and seagulls arrive waiting for their handouts.
While the ducks are busy scavenging the boat ramp, the seagull bends its head backward and screams out in frustration. I can only imagine the meaning of its calls, “Where is everyone? Where is the food? Why am I alone out here?” A few more gulls fly in to swim all looking for a meal.
Pigeons fly off the ramp and circle overhead before returning to boat ramp three separate times before they finally settle again. Ducks waddle down the ramp, returning to the river. The gulls make a quick exit, soaring through the air with wings extended to catch air currents. The lonely gull stays standing on the ramp, contemplating and calls out again. Two Canada Geese arrive and wander the boat ramp looking for something to eat.
Of the many dead and discarded salmon I have seen floating in the river or left at the riverbank, this is the first salmon skull I have seen. Finding this on the boat ramp, I wonder what creatures feasted on this and how did it get here?
Birds twitter in the cool morning air. A gentle breeze blows against my face.
Riding my bike today, I stop briefly on Fair Oaks Bridge to check for wildlife and spider webs. I continue on the American River Parkway trail, stopping at a shallow, narrow place on the American River. This short part of the river is lined with a thick blanket of gravel. The river’s resident Mallards come here to find food. Salmon arrive in the fall to spawn here.
Many salmon swim further upriver to another shallow place, or finish their long journey to Nimbus Fish Hatchery. I chat with several walkers who have also stopped to enjoy the view.
A Cormorant stands on a small island in the middle of the river channel. I hear a distant quack from an unseen duck once, and then again and again, as if it is calling ‘Where is everyone?’ This rocky island is a fraction of its former size before the winter 2017 flooding. Fishermen used to dock their boats here, set up a chair with their ice chest alongside, and spend a few hours fishing.
My next stop is a picnic area on the riverbank, a short distance from the bike path. I listen to the sounds of the soft breeze and hear the water gently moving downstream. The river is moving more quickly today than recent visits. Small white peaks form on the other side of the river about 100 yards downstream. Could this be where rocks hide underneath and create rapids in the river?
I ride back to the boat launch ramp to watch Mallards searching the water for bugs or seeds or something to nibble on. I sit and watch them paddle through the water and dive head first into the water searching for food. If I had food to give them, two dozen ducks would fly in from anywhere, sensing feeding activity on the river.
The Great Blue Heron poses like a statue in the American River. It stood on the stub of a branch before I arrived and continued to pose and study the river long after I walked off Fair Oaks Bridge. Water is still. The sky pale blue and clear. Not a wisp of a cloud. A dozen ducks swim by, creating their own wake. Pigeons fly in dancing over the bridge and quickly depart.
I walk to the boat launch ramp and see the ducks gather at the end of the ramp, looking at me with curiosity. They are likely wondering, Do you have food for us? I have no food to share. I hear an unseen woodpecker softly drumming on a nearby tree.
This peaceful place is an escape from other crises of the day. As I stand here and enjoy its beauty, catastrophic wildfires consume other areas of California – places of peace, joy and beauty where people and wildlife have lived and loved for years.
Water is completely still. The mist seems to have absorbed some of the smoke. Scattered bright white cloud cover resembles strands of spun gold reflected in the emerging sunlight. Clouds of mist begin around the bend to the east and roll slowly west across the surface of the river. In my full hour out here, I see one walker and one cyclist. Fair Oaks Bridge deck does not look frosty, yet it is still slippery in places. I wear my hooded jacket and wear warm gloves.
I walk down to the boat launch ramp to watch the mist as it rolls under the bridge. A lone seagull flies overhead. One Mallard swims along the ramp calling good morning with a few quiet Quack, Quack! Likely wondering if I brought breakfast. One year ago I took similar photos at this place on the ramp – now one of them is the front cover of Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge: Watching Wildlife at the Lower American River .
This is the season to experience the most beautiful and peaceful mornings on the American River.
As I stand and watch the mist roll across the river and rise as it goes under the bridge, a Great Blue Heron arrives. It sounds its characteristic good morning chortle and continues its flight east.
The pale blue sky covered by strips of white clouds gives no hint of the smoke that blanketed skies across the region through the week. Another seagull flies over. Four ducks emerge from the riverbank. I hear a bird call from a distance. Early morning mist continues to roll slowly across the surface of the river, enveloping the corridor in a blanket of white.
The boat launch ramp nearby Fair Oaks Bridge has its own stories. Featured below are photos taken before and after the rain. Together they reveal a small part of the stories of this place.
This is where visitors feed ducks and I watch them play, dunk, wash and search for bits of food. Fishermen launch their fishing boats here and others climb into their rafts for a ride on the river. I often see people come to sit on the bench, or park their car to watch and enjoy this peaceful setting. This is the ideal vantage point for all my bridge photos.
I often mention this ramp in blog posts because it is the site for so much activity watching ducks, Canada Geese and seagulls. They search for food, they argue, they shout and listen for others to join them.
Flooded boat launch photo taken from Fair Oaks Bridge in between rainstorms after large releases of water rushed down the American River. Two other photos shown were taken in early February.
A cold and very frosty morning! Slipper ice lines the deck of the bridge.
Sunrise emerges behind clouds that envelop the sky in a huge, gray blanket. A quiet and peaceful morning. A few walkers are out and we are all bundled in jackets and gloves.
I hear birds and wildlife that remain unseen. The river seems lower than this morning – water is periodically being released from Folsom and Nimbus Dams during winter rains raising the level of the river and expanding it on the riverbanks and up the boat launch ramp. I hear the sound of the water and the wind as my face is chilled in the morning air.
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.
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.