September 21st, 2009

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail

San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail

San Tomas Aquino Creek originates in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and winds 16 miles through the communities of Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Campbell, San Jose and Santa Clara to San Francisco Bay.  There is a nice trail running alongside it for a few miles of its lower reach.  On Saturday D. and I were there, and I took these pics.

We begin at the junction with the Route 237 bikepath.  Here's a pic looking downstream past Highway 237 toward San Francisco Bay.

And this is looking upstream.  The channel is choked with cattails.

Urban development and pollution often cause stress to riparian communities.  The health of a creek reflects conditions throughout the watershed, not just those along its banks.

Silt runoff from construction sites, pollutants from cars and runoff from the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers all affect the quality of its water.

Some of the rides at Great America can be seen where the trail runs along one side of the park.

In the 1950s and '60s much of the creek's watershed was developed to include homes and business, schools and roads, sometimes in areas that are the creek's natural floodplain.

An egret is depicted on trail signage underfoot at the intersection of Agnew Rd.

And here's a real one a bit further upstream.

The water district is doing flood control work on the channel in this section.     A whole stretch of it is virtually dry.

The blue and white Intel building is behind the trees in the center of the pic.

It looks like they are converting the natural channel into a concrete-lined channel.

A temporary dam above a vertical drop structure allows access to the channel bed.

A couple of egrets hang around a drainage conduit near the construction area.

This dry stretch seems to be a popular place with egrets, for some reason.

How odd; there's no fish here. It's dry. Maybe it's a good place to eat rocks.

Looking downstream at and upstream from the dam.

One of the many concrete mural panels along the trail, designed by artist Linda Patterson.

During rainstorms, water which runs off driveways, sidewalks and streets travels through the storm drain system to the creek.  The creek carries the excess water away from homes and businesses, protecting them from potential damage.

The channel is so silted up in this stretch that a small palm forest has gotten a foothold (not a good thing).

A vertical drop structure in the concrete channel just downstream from the Caltrain tracks.  This slows down the water during high flows to prevent it from gouging up the dirt stretch of the channel downstream.  It also serves to help oxygenate the water.

Concrete channels and high floodwalls allow high flows of water to drain quickly from the creek's watershed but do little to preserve the natural habitat.

Saratoga Creek flows into San Tomas Aquino Creek here.

It looks more like a meadow than a creek.  This is the current trailhead.

Edumacational displays at the trailhead.

This is as far as the trail goes at this time.  The next reach is under construction, though.