March Visit (3/23/2016) 3 of 3

Because the green hills will not last long, I wanted to capture the great difference in the view at the trailhead in March compared to last September.  The charred trees and shrubs stand out starkly against the vibrant green new growth.  Here is the view March 23:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2016mar23_sm

And here is the view from last September 11:

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2015sep11_sm

February Visit (2/24/2016)

I returned to the reserve in February excited to see how much greener it would be and whether any wildflowers were starting to appear.  This drawing of Blue Ridge shows a dramatic difference from a month and a half prior:

ridge_2016feb24_sm

All along the creek trail, I enjoyed the new greens, as seen in the new growth below in a California buckeye and the Toyon at marker A02 (markers are used by the CA Phenology Project at Stebbins; here is a map of the marker locations).

californiabuckeye_2016feb24_sm

 

toyona02_2016feb24_sm

Cold Creek was running higher, and the water and the sediment both look cleaner than they did on my December and January visits.

coldcreek_2016feb24_sm

And there were wildflowers!  Not all that many yet, but I did see Henderson’s shooting star (Dodecatheon hendersonii), Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule), Large-leaved hound’s tongue (Cynoglossum grande), Blue dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), and Wild cucumber (Marah fabaceus).

shootingstar_2016feb24_sm

 

wildflowers_2016feb24_sm

 

Water Quality (12/30/2015 & 1/8/2016)

High-intensity chaparral fires cause increased erosion and sediment transport into streams, and this can be seen in the thick black sludge filling the Cold Creek channel.  On my December visit, with no recent rain, the creek bed was pretty dramatically full of sludge.

December 30, 2015:

coldcreek_30dec2015_sm

By my January visit, several small storms had contributed to small flows in the creek.  As water washes the runoff from the burned hillsides through the system, ash from the fire as well as contaminants that were present on the hillsides will move through Cold Creek and into Putah Creek.  This creates water quality concerns which will be addressed by future water quality monitoring to be conducted by the Solano County Water Agency.

January 8, 2016:

coldcreek_8jan2016_sm

On a Guided Hike (12/30/2015)

While the Cold Canyon trails are closed, the reserve is offering guided hikes to the public (current list of hikes).  I participated in a hike at the end of December, led by Jeffrey Clary, Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve Manager.  We walked along the canyon trail, discussing the plants that were started to regrow, and how the site is faring five months after the fire.

coldcanyontour2_2015dec30_sm

Interestingly, there is less regrowth at this point than might be expected, with the hillsides still quite bare, with many fewer seed regenerating plants than after similar fires.  That is not to say that there is no regrowth yet, though, and hikers found plenty of interesting plants along the trail, growing from seeds, bulbs, and resprouting from stumps.

soapplant2_2015dec30_sm

We also observed other effects of the fire, including many new rock faces, created when the water inside the boulders caused them to explode in the heat of the fire.

rockfaces2_2015dec30_sm

The Closed Trailhead (9/11/2015)

Due to extensive damage to the trails and the overall sensitivity of surviving plants and wildlife at the reserve, the Cold Canyon trails are closed until at least spring 2016.  In September, I visited the reserve’s closed trailhead, to take a look at the landscape and to document the trail closure.  Looking through the chain-link fence, I could see charred ground and skeletal trunks of trees and shrubs, but noted that the signpost was left unscathed.

coldcanyonclosedtrailheadv2_2015sep11_sm

Wragg Fire Map (8/5/2015)

The Wragg Fire started just over the ridge to the west of Cold Canyon, rushing quickly over the hill and down into the canyon.  Once there, it remained in the canyon, generating winds that caused it to cycle within the canyon, according to Jeffrey Clary, Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve Manager.  This greatly increased the intensity of burning in the canyon.  The differences in fire intensity across the landscape burned will lead to interesting opportunities to compare rates and types of regrowth in the coming years.

wraggfiremap3_sm

The Wragg Fire (7/22-8/5/2015)

Between July 22 and August 5, 2015, the Wragg Fire burned over 8,000 acres in Napa and Solano Counties, including the entirety of the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve near Lake Berryessa.

On July 28, driving home in Davis, I happened to notice a new large plume of smoke, further south than where I had seen smoke previously.  This was the day the fire reignited, after having been at 80% containment.  It took another seven days to reach full containment.

wraggstillburning_2015jul28_sm

As I stood at the side of the road watching, an air tanker flew overhead, heading away from the fire.

dc10tanker_2015jul28_sm

A couple of days earlier, I had seen the completely burned hillside west of Winters, making a stark contrast with the hills in their usual summer gold and green to the north.

wraggburnedhills_2015jul26_sm