Carol Warren
Putah Creek, Winters, CA, USA
2022

Story Info

Story & Experience

My Earth Exchange today was along Putah Creek near Winters, CA. This creek stretches from mountains north of Lake Berryessa to the Sacramento River delta area. It was a source of food, water, basket materials, and medicines for the various Patwin people who lived here. Several segments of the creek near Winters were dredged and re-routed a couple of years ago. Soil was scraped away and then soil from other areas was brought in and compacted. In some spots only scrubby growth exists (see photo).

My daughter, who is a plant scientist, accompanied me, and we were thrilled to see that a number of native species (and a few common non-natives) are back and beginning to flourish. Lots of riparian trees (alder, willow, poplar) and wetland plants, bunch grass, and rushes are back (she counted at least 16 species) – some healthier and doing better than others. There were dozens of swallow nests on the side of one bridge, various colored butterflies investigating flowers, and even small fish and water striders in the creek itself.

But…there are still things “missing.” No tule, which was such a part of Patwin life, and no cattails. There are no large rocks in the stream because of the dredging, and thus less shelter for water dwellers. There used to be beavers, although we saw no evidence of any, nor did we see any dragonflies, which was puzzling. Still, we felt heartened after spending time observing and relating to this wounded place and noticing the new life happening.

In the foreground of the photo, if you zoom in, is our gift of beauty to Putah Creek, made with found objects on scene. You may disagree, but we think it looks like the Radical Joy bird!

Putah Creek, Winters, CA, USA

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