November 2004 Archives

Connections Run Deep in Lagunitas Creek

November rain sings a song of connectivity. It completes the natural cycle, raising the rivers and recharging the aquifers, pouring from the air to the earth and back to the ocean whence it came. We find an extraordinary example of its ramifications in western Marin County, where the rainfall not only paints a fresh coat of green on the sun-blasted hills but also summons a legion of deep sea creatures to return to the highland haunts of their birth.

The Lagunitas Creek watershed begins on the northern slopes of Mount Tamalpais and flows on the landward side of the Bolinas Ridge approximately 25 miles north to drain into Tomales Bay, fed by numerous streams along the way including Nicasio Creek, San Geronimo Creek, Olema Creek, Devil's Gulch and Deadman's Gulch. At more than 100 square miles, it is the largest watershed in Marin County, but its stature stands all the higher for the abundance of life it supports.

The riparian plant community here exists in layers of height-based competition for sunlight. Redwoods, Douglas firs, California bays, and madrones reach for the sky, while beneath them willows, alders, big-leaf maples and dogwoods jockey for position in the increasingly dappled shade. Hazelnuts, huckleberries, and elk clover fill in the lower levels, adapted as they are to the darker conditions near the forest floor.