As the season changes to fall, fishermen arrive at the American River at dawn to catch salmon as they swim and search for the best place to spawn. Always a good time to visit the river’s resident ducks. They are always hungry.
Cyclists, Walkers and Wildlife Meet
Monday, September 19, 2016 7 am
Bright light reflects on the water. A cool breeze blows across my face. Today, unlike yesterday, a loud hum echoes from the Sunrise Blvd. bridge crossing as early risers drive to and from Highway 50.
The roosters have already finished their morning wake up calls. A few stragglers are still crowing. Two men float in their boats with fishing lines cast. More cyclists ride by than the same time yesterday. Walkers are out with their dogs. As I walk onto the bridge, an egret flies in on the west side and quickly hides in the shrubbery at the shore. Ducks swim in pairs, searching for breakfast nibbles on insects. Tomorrow I will bring bread to feed them down at the boat launch ramp.Read more
Gulls gather on the river in groups of a hundred or more to wait for salmon to swim upstream, spawn and die. Turkey vultures and salmon both guard their catch.
Wildlife Returns to the River
The American River is quiet once again after one of the wettest winters in 20 years. What wildlife will return to the river this spring?
Flight of Seagulls
Watching a flock of hungry seagulls gathered at an island at the American River during the fall salmon run.
Moment to Moment Experiences
What is it like to be a fisherman in the cold early morning light waiting to catch a salmon? What is their favorite part of the morning?
Some Bridge Visitors Show No Respect
Sunday, September 25, 2016, 7 am, 55 degrees
This is a quiet Sunday morning when the neighborhood sleeps late. Roosters are awake. My first impressions when I approach the bridge is how bright it is so early in the day. I wonder how the shadows change as the sun moves through the sky? I will return to the bridge before sunset and find out.
Today instead of seeing scenic beauty first in the morning, I see remnants of a dozen burnt out sparklers and fountains saved from the fourth of July left in the center of the bridge.
Preparing for Salmon to Return Home
Tuesday October 11, 2016 – part one, 52 degrees
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?”
Continued in part two
A Quiet Day on the River
Thursday October 18, 2016, 80 degrees
As I arrive on my bike this afternoon, I notice the sun has flipped to the opposite side of the bridge this afternoon as the sun travels to the western sky. The river is quiet and weather is a warm 80 degrees – a warm day for fall. Resident ducks are enjoying a lazy day at the river. Birds are gone. After their morning flyover, I see birds spending their days gathered on the river scouting for food.
A gentle breeze carries the sound of rap music from visitors gathering on the riverbank to the east side of the bridge. This large open spot on the riverbank is among the most popular “hangouts” for groups to gather for parties on the river.
Years ago, when I first started visiting the Fair Oaks Bridge. Nearly every evening for months on end, I heard the beat of bongo drums from the riverbank.
Rainsticks Really Sound Like Rain!
Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 7:15 am, 58 degrees
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