Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rush Creek Open Space Preserve

"Rush Creek Open Space Preserve: Wanderers welcome"
2013-09-25 from Gail Todd from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
A morning stroll in Novato's 500-acre Rush Creek Open Space Preserve offers a medley of hiking pleasures - oak forest, wetland marshes, ridge views and bird-watching. Several trails lead to Cemetery Marsh, which, despite its gloomy name, is anything but somber. You will see ducks paddling with their ducklings and geese with their goslings, and numerous shorebirds drilling in the mud flats.
The hike featured below takes you through a newer section of the preserve and keeps you away from Highway 101 traffic noise. In 2003, the Marin Audubon Society purchased 632 acres of land to save it from development. Most of this land was donated to the Marin County Open Space District and the Department of Fish and Wildlife, expanding the preserve.
Bring water and a hat and start early to avoid the heat of the day. Download a trail map at It's good to have, since many trails are unmarked.
Bahia Trail
Go through the gate and follow the wooden fence to the signed Bahia Trail. The trail zigzags but stays relatively level, as it follows along the Petaluma River Marsh Wildlife Area to your right, with wonderful views of Black John Slough. Little paths lead down to the water, where you may spot herons, egrets and possibly even a swan. The trail itself is lined with oak and manzanita.
An unmarked path on your left warns, "Honey Bee Hive." Stay on the main trail, far from the bees. The trail broadens and becomes the Rush Creek Fire Road, eventually coming to Rush Creek itself and Cemetery Marsh.

Cemetery Marsh -
When you get to the marsh, you find a collection of trailheads, all unmarked. Down to your right and backtracking slightly in the direction you came is your path to explore Cemetery Marsh. To your left, heading uphill, is the Bahia Ridge Fire Road - the trail that will return you to your car.
Take your time exploring the marsh. The North Levee Trail meanders a tranquil path lined with pickleweed and views of shorebirds and ducks. Swallows dart overhead. There have been reports of river otters and even muskrats.

Bahia Ridge Fire Road -
When you're through exploring the marsh, take the unmarked Bahia Ridge Fire Road heading uphill. You are rewarded for climbing 240 feet by an oak-filled ridge view that lets you gaze down at the slough to your left and out over the marsh on your right. You might even catch a glimpse of nearby Mount Burdell.
Lichen hangs down over the trees, providing a slight air of mystery. Amidst the plentiful California live oak and manzanita is a stand of the rarer blue oak. You won't hear freeway noise, but you may hear cars racing on a nearby speedway.
Watch for tiny lizards darting across the trail. Mule deer are plentiful. Bobcats, fox and coyotes have also been sighted.
When you come to an unmarked fork in the fire road, continue to the left. Another juncture farther on to the left leads back across the Honey Bee Hive path and reconnects to the Bahia Trail. (I asked a hiker emerging from the Bee Hive path if he'd ever been stung there and he answered, "Only twice.") Continue on the fire road and you will shortly come to Bahia Drive. Turn left and walk to your car.

If you go -
Rush Creek Open Space Preserve: From S.F. by car, take Highway 101 north and exit at Atherton Avenue/San Marin Drive, turning right onto Atherton Avenue. When Atherton veers to the right, turn left onto Bugeia Lane. Bugeia becomes Bahia Drive. Continue to the end. Street parking is available. The trailhead is on your left.

Ducks, geese and shorebirds are plentiful at Rush Creek Open Space Preserve near Novato. Photo: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle

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