Codornices Creek: Happy ducks in place of concrete

This section of Codornices Creek, at 6th Street in Berkeley, has recently been restored. Photo: Neil Mishalov

Update, 01.31.12: Susan Schwartz, President, Friends of Five Creeks, provides an informative clarification on the history of this section of Codornices Creek. (This is why we love the Berkeleyside community so much — our expert readers always bring the latest intelligence to the table!):

We’re always delighted to see articles about nature, but the Codornices Creek reach between 6th and 8th referred to was not in a pipe, nor were the reaches downstream.

Since 2000, three projects have carved new channels In this post-industial area, giving more meander to what had been a more or less straight ditch. In some areas concrete cladding was removed from banks and/or bottom. Native plants have been planted, with, we hope, more such diversity to come. The hope is to reduce flood danger, improve habitat for the rainbow trout/steelhead already in the creek (more than 100 had to be moved in order to improve just one of these three sections), and generally revitalize nature in the city, for the sake of people as well as wildlife.

We commonly call this “restoration,” but that may not be the best term. Before European settlement, Codornices Creek appears to have petered out in a wet grassland before reaching the slough and salt marsh that drained north-northwest to the Bay behind Fleming Point (now Golden Gate Fields race track; the channelized slough is still there). Without a Bay connection, there probably were no trout/steelhead (rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species).


The creek probably was ditched through to the slough in the 1870s, when what is now the transcontinental railway tracks were built through Berkeley. Probably in the 1980s or 90s, improving water quality (due to disappearance of industry and the federal Clean Water Act) let adventurous steelhead successfully reproduce in the creek. The reason we think it was that late is that kids, who know these things, don’t seem to remember the fish before then. But we’d love to know more about this!

The reach between 8th and 9th, referred to by Charles [in the Comments section], was actually taken out of a culvert in 1995, largely by volunteers, including Richard Register, who has faithfully maintained the project ever since.

Original story: Never let it be said that Berkeley isn’t teeming with wildlife, be it scavenging turkeys, mountain lions on the prowl, or — in this case — some happy-looking ducks and a white egret.

The photo above was submitted by Neil Mishalov and it shows a section of Codornices Creek east of 6th Street, just before the creek goes under 6th (see map, below). This part of the creek, which marks the border between Albany and Berkeley, was culverted for many years, reports Mishalov. It was recently opened, and life is flourishing in what was once a dark, closed concrete pipe.

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