Sausal Creek in flood


With the heaviest rains I’ve seen in years, I checked out Dimond Canyon today to assess the power of the stream in it, Sausal Creek. The water was brown and impressive. It looked about waist-deep at most. I don’t know how this stream cut the canyon, which is a gorge more than 50 meters deep with stone walls. But I have a theory involving stream capture and movement on the Hayward fault, just upstream from the gorge. At various times, the fault has pulled the canyon past different watersheds. Perhaps lakes lay upstream, or landslides formed dams, that collected enough water to give the canyon a good downcutting once in a while. I hypothesize that the stream’s watershed was once quite a bit larger, perhaps even the valley now occupied by Chabot Reservoir. But the timing has to work.

There are at least two other gorges in the Oakland foothills that appear oversized to me: the upper reaches of Cemetery Creek, along Moraga Road, and the canyon of Peralta Creek in Redwood Heights, best seen from Rettig Avenue north of 35th Avenue.

It is recorded that the early loggers who stripped the redwoods out of the Oakland hills used to float their logs down Sausal Creek to the bay. All I can say is, there must have been a lot more water in the hills back in the 1850s, because even today’s deluge couldn’t have done that.

BTW see the Friends of Sausal Creek site.

6 Responses to “Sausal Creek in flood”

  1. Dennis Evanosky Says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have always loved this blog and the sidewalk stamp blog. I’m an Oakland historian and love this place. Ive written a book about Mountian View Cemetery, site of the famous knockers (and more), one about the Laurel District where I live and a few more. I have one in the cooker about Dimond and Fruitvale. (check it out

    There’s no mystery about the loggers floating the logs down the creeks. They simply didn’t do it. They used Sausal, Horseshoe (near Leona Lodge,) Palo Seco and Redwood (and other ) creeks as ready-made logging roads. They trimmed the lower branches, felled the the trees, trimmed the rest of the branchs and strewed this “duff” onto the creek beds to create a road for the oxen to haul the logs to the mills (there was one on Sausal Creek and several more in today’s Redwood Park) or to the stations where they’d prepare thelogs for their journey to the Estuary.

    I give the walking tour in the Oakland redwoods for the Oakland Heritage Alliance and another in Leona Heights. I’d love to take you through the Horseshoe Creek redwoods, and up to see the oldest tree in Oakland, it’s 400-plus-years old. There is so much more: two Native American hematite sites, the sulphur mines and the interesting remains of the rock quarries.

    I would be very interested in taking a hike sharing some knowledge.


    [Hi Dennis! I’ll send email soon. –Andrew]

  2. Ben Burress Says:

    I have been told that the redwood (oldest living in Oakland) you mention is more like 500+ years old; it was core-sampled by naturalist Paul Covel back in the 60’s or 70’s.

  3. Russell Yee, Oakland Says:

    On the age of “Old Survivor”: I have a copy of the _Oakland Tribune_. Wed. Aug 13, 1969 p. 28-A “Original Redwood Here” which states, “Glen Strouse of the Humboldt State college forestry department was brought in and took a tiny core sample from the tree. Microscopic examination of the growth rings show it is 415 to 420 years old.”

    Adding 42 years to bring us up to date gives 457 – 462 years old today.

  4. Dennis Evanosky Says:

    There is no evidence of Covel measuring the tree. A very close inspection of the tree itself shows that only one core sample was ever taken.

    I’d like to thank Russell for finding that article. I shows that Strouse was the one who took the core sample. It also gives a great reference point with that contemporary Oakland Tribune story. I’m in the middle of reprinting my book on the Laurel District, which has a chapter on the redwoods with a photo of “Grandpa,” as I affectionately call the tree. I’ll add this great information to the book.

  5. Russell Yee, Oakland Says:

    Hey Dennis, if it would help you I have copies of Sherwood Burgess’ article, “The Forgotten Redwoods of the East Bay (CHQ 30:1, March 1951), also the 1893 William Gibbons piece “The Redwood in the Oakland Hills” (Erythea 1:8) where he reports the stupendous measurements of coalesced stumps. I also have copies of some Monte Monteagle etc. pieces I found at the EBRPD HQ when I looked there, though that was mostly/all derivative info. LMK if you’d like copies, I’d be happy to supply. I’ve also long wondered if there are any images of the original trees. The only two I’ve come across are: 1. small inset in the 1851 Beechy Map showing the two “Landmark Trees” used to avoid Blossom Rock; and 2. very iffy wisps in that 6-panel panoramic 1853 daguerreotype of SF, with the Oakland hills in the background, @ the Oak Mus.

    BTW here are the map coordinates for Old Survivor, you can barely make it out on Google Maps:

    And the Laverty men’s fine _MacAMetro_ piece:

  6. Bruce Tutcher Says:

    I just visited “the grandfather” for the first time, and was researching facts about it when I saw Russell’s listing. For anybody interested, has the tribune for this date. Here’s the link. The graphic quality is not great, and their OCR rendering of the text takes some work to decipher, but IT EXISTS :-)

    notice the ‘page’ is noted as 78 by their system, which does not recognize sections.

    By the way, though it was, as the article notes, Glen Strouse who did the core sample, it was Paul Covel who discovered the tree and facilitated Mr. Strouse coming here (according to the article).

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: