|WELCOME to the Kaweah Oaks Preserve, a
small 324 acre nature preserve, owned and managed by the Four Creeks Chapter
of the Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust, for the protection of our natural
heritage. Please use this interpretive trail booklet to enhance your journey
along the Grapevine Trail. Take 15 minutes or several hours to enjoy this
quarter mile loop trail. Use the benches along the path to rest or just
listen and watch for a while.
This booklet will introduce you to many of the
plants and animals that inhabit this Valley Oak Riparian Forest Community.
The thirteen numbered markers highlight special features found along the
Over 100 species of birds, 16 mammal species and
11 species of reptiles and amphibians have been seen at the Kaweah Oaks
Preserve. Keep your senses alert for signs of wildlife as you explore the
natural diversity of this unique sanctuary.
Please observe these simple rules:
Remember, this is a nature preserve, we humans
are the guests here. Please help preserve it by not collecting plants,
animals, insects or fish. Stay on the trail and take everything you brought
with you when you leave. Smoking, camping, pets, radios, fires, alcohol,
paint-ball guns and firearms are prohibited. Visiting hours are from dawn
Thank you for your cooperation and please
enjoy your visit.
The Grapevine Trail begins where you see the old wild grapevines reaching
into the Valley Oak tree. They cascade from the tree, appearing as a waterfall
descending from the great oak’s canopy. This oak is possibly 250+ years
old, older than the United States of America! This species of oak is the
largest in North America and only grows in lower elevations within California.
The Grapevine Trail
There are 13 stops on this ¼ mile looped nature trail. Take the
left fork at the Black Willow tree (Stop #2).
California Wild Grape
|1. WILD GRAPE -
These are native Wild Grape vines (Vitus californicus). Many birds,
insects and animals eat the grapes as they ripen in the fall. The fruit
was also a favorite of grizzly bears and the Yokuts Indians who lived in
this area. These vines can climb 50 feet into the branches of the oaks
and serve as a stairway into the oak’s canopy for small animals, many of
which make their homes here.
|2. UNDERSTORY - Here, near the Black
Willow tree, are a few examples of understory plants which help to illustrate
the difference between this Valley Oak Riparian Forest and a Valley Oak
Woodland. Many herbs, shrubs and vines such as Horehound,
Nettle, Mugwort, Mint,
Grape, White Hedge Nettle, Miner’s
etc., thrive under the canopy of these densely spaced trees. A good example
of Valley Oak Woodland habitat is found in the northeast portion of the
preserve along the Sycamore Trail,
where the trees are more widely scattered and annual (ocurring once a year)
and perennial (recurring every year) grasses dominate the understory. California
Sycamores and Willow trees thrive in the more open woodland. If time
allows, do take the Sycamore Trail (north of the Alkali Meadow) and experience
the difference between a forest and a woodland.
BLACKBERRY - On the left you will see a small patch of Himalayan Berries
(Rubus procerus), with the larger prickles (thorns). This berry
is not native but was brought to this
area by settlers around 1909. These, along with
many other exotic plants, have no natural control and eventually develop
into invasive weeds. This variety has not choked out our native blackberry
(smaller thorns), but it does compete for the same space. The tasty berries
are good for pies, jam and jelly. The berries also provide good food and
protective cover for squirrels, mice, rabbits, and birds. They ripen in
summer and may be picked - but beware of the large thorns.
California Blackberry leaf
BLACKBERRY - California Blackberry (Rubus ursinus), a native
species, was once a rare occurrence on the preserve. It has taken over
this spot and done increasingly well since the removal of cattle from the
riparian forest. Cattle found the California Blackberry vines edible because
of their small spines.This native blackberry ripens in late May and June
and can be very sweet when picked ripe - don't eat the red ones - look
for the BLACK berries.
Milk Thistle silver-viened leaf
Poison Hemlock fern-like leaf
|5. EXOTICS - A few non-native (or
exotic) species have invaded the preserve. Here you can see Poison Hemlock
(Conium maculatum), Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum), and
Yellow Starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) in the summertime.
has lacey fern-like leaves and in spring and summer grows tall stalks with
white Queen Anne’s Lace-like flower heads. It also resembles Wild Carrot
and Bur-chervil in its early stage of growth.
It is poisonous if ingested (eaten) and Socrates, a Greek Philosopher,
learned that the hard way.
is an aggressive intruder with large spine-tipped, silver-veined leaves
and purple spiny flowers on tall stalks. It can grow very quickly and become
impenetrable by early summer. This plant was introduced for its tasty artichoke-like
is much smaller with yellow flowers. Multiple long and sharp thorns are
produced from every pollinated flower by late summer. All three of these
species are native to Europe and are invasive in Central California. Several
means of eradication (removal) have proven both costly and unsuccessful,
but we’ll keep trying.
|Listen for Bewick's Wrens, Oak Titmouse, Spotted
Towhees, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. What other sounds do you
hear? Are they natural or man-made sounds?
Clematis or Virgin's Bower
|6) VIRGIN’S BOWER
- These creeping vines provide excellent habitat for small mammals and
birds. By hiding under the leafy cover, they can avoid the sharp eyes of
hawks circling above. Virgin’s Bower (Clematis ligusticifolia) tends
to grow horizontally, overgrowing other low ground cover, rather than climbing
into trees as the wild grape does. After blooming in mid-summer, the female
parts of the flower form a fuzzy seed head - like balls that look like
weird Christmas ornaments.
|7) ELDERBERRY -
The tall shrubs on both sides of the trail are good examples of the native
Blue Elderberry (Sambucus caerulea). All parts of this plant are
toxic except for the berries. If you search the branches carefully, you
may find a half-inch oval exit hole of an elusive Valley Elderberry Longhorn
Beetle, a federally protected species.The beetle is red and black with
very long antennae.
|8) DEAD COTTONWOOD - This dead Cottonwood
tree (Populus fremontii), to the west of marker #8, fell over in
1993. The end of its life was marked by a lack of small branches and the
abundance of leathery Mistletoe (a parasitic shrub) in its branches. It’s
an excellent host to many bugs, insects and lizards which can be observed
and under its trunk. This site is a good laboratory
to see producers, consumers and decomposers in action. Young cottonwoods
|9) RYE GRASS - On the right side of the trail
annual rye grass (Lolium multiflorum) covers an open area in early
|10) CHANGE - A wall of vines now dominate where
a fallen oak slumbers. The oak, now completely hidden, slowly decomposes
and returns to the soil to nourish the vines and surrounding plants and
insects. Look for the vine cave near the creek bank. Beware of Stinging
Nettle near the trail.
A healing herb grows nearby - Mugwort,
the natural antedote for the rash caused by Stining Nettle. Take a leaf,
crush it and lightly rub it on the rash every few minutes to relieve the
irritation. When you get home, apply ice to the rash for 3-4 minutes for
Watch out for stinging nettle on the trail.
|11.) ADOLESCENT VALLEY OAKS - Several
Valley Oaks between 30 - 75 years of age grow close to each other here.
Compare their sizes to those to your left and behind you.
It is up to all of us to preserve this land so they can grow old, too.
12.) REST STOP - Rest here a while and exercise your five senses: hear,
smell, see, feel and taste. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds all
around you. Can you hear five things? Which ones are natural and which
ones are man-made? How many different bird calls can you hear? Smell the
forest – how many scents can you distinguish? Look at the whole picture
of this forest, turn your head and see the majestic Valley Oaks with the
Wild Grapevines making a stairway into the forest canopy for the little
creatures that live here – can you spot any of them? Look closely at the
plants all around – how many shades of green do you see? How many different
shaped leaves do you see? Can you feel a breeze, the wind, the sun, anything?
If the Himalayan Berries are ripe - taste one. Any Miner’s Lettuce nearby?
Taste it. Involve yourself with nature, it will delight all your senses.
||13.) BLACK WILLOW - At this last stop
along the Grapevine Trail you’ll see (and duck under) a shrubby tree. This
is a Black Willow (Salix gooddingii), one of 4 Willow species found
here. Notice the blade-shaped leaves are green on both sides of the leaf.
Can you find any Willow fluff left over from the bloom stalks? Look for
bark beetles as you pass by.
We hope you have enjoyed your hike and that this
information has provided a better understanding of the Kaweah Oaks Preserve’s
riparian forest landscape and its inhabitants.
You are welcome to keep this copy of the Grapevine
Trail Interpretive Brochure or you can leave it in the receptacle at the
#1 marker for others to use. Thank you for helping to keep Kaweah
Oaks Preserve natural by leaving it as you found it and not disturbing
the native wildlife or vegetation.
Please come again each season of the year and
observe the many changes in the plants, birds and animals. You will be
amazed and delighted to see how well it all works together.
Trail guides are available to lead groups
on a nature walk through the Grapevine, Sycamore, Swamp or Rose Trail.
Call Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust at 559 738-0211 or go online at
kaweahoaks.com to schedule a guided tour.
Visit our website at kaweahoaks.com for more information
and study aides. Become a member of Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust and help
protect this and other precious places in the southern Sierra foothills
and the Tulare Valley.
Donations are appreciated and tax-deductible.
You can mail a contribution to:
Call 559 738-0211 or visit the website
for event updates.
Join us for our annual fundraising
banquet in May each year and the Open House in October. Special tours,
entertainment and other fun activities are scheduled throughout the year.
Sierra Los Tulares Land
711 N. Court Street, Ste. D
Visalia, CA 93291