|Welcome to the Kaweah Oaks Preserve, owned and
managed by the Four Creeks Chapter of the Sierra Los Tulares Land Trust.
Please use this interpretive trail brochure to enhance your journey along
the Swamp* Trail.
Take 30 minutes or several hours to enjoy this easy 7/8 mile loop trail.
This guide will introduce you to many of the
plants and animals that inhabit this valley oak woodland/riparian forest
community. The 15 numbered stops detail highlights found along the trail.
Keep alert for signs of wildlife.
*This area flooded
regularly before Terminus Dam dammed the Kaweah River in 1962. Since then
the swamp has disappeared and so have most of the mosquitoes. We have retained
the name only for historical reasons. Turtle Pond (#15) is the nearest
habitat to a swamp we can claim.
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, paint-ball
guns and firearms are prohibited. Also, visiting hours are from dawn to
Thank you for your cooperation and please enjoy
The Swamp Trail meanders through a valley oak
woodland and riparian forest. Riparian forests are found along the streams
and ditches that traverse KOP. Water flow is unpredictable due to controlled
releases at the Terminus Dam on Kaweah Lake, but enough water flows through
to maintain riparian vegetation. The plant community on this trail is composed
of native Valley Oak, Sycamore, Willows, Ash, Wild Grape, Blackberry, Sedges,
grasses, perennial herbs, and many exotic (introduced) species.
||1. The Swamp Tail begins at the Arroyo
Willows (Salix lasiolepis) on the far west end of the preserve.
These native willows are found near water in the Kaweah River Basin and
all over California. Willows provide wildlife with food and excellent shelter.
The Yokuts Indians cherished the leaves, bark and roots for its pain relieving
characteristics and had many uses for its small but strong branches.
|2. The native Blue
Elderberry (Sambucus cerulean) is host to the protected Valley
Elderberry Longhorn Beetle. Most parts of this tree are very toxic until
cooked or fermented. It’s okay to taste the ripe whitish berries, but taste
only the berries, not the stems or the leaves. To the left is a nice patch
of native Saltgrass (Distichlis spicata).
During dry periods try tasting the Saltgrass - look for the dark salt crystals
along the stem and leaves. The Yokuts Indians harvested this mineral to
be used to season oak mush and preserve meat.
|3. Valley Oak
(Quercus lobata) trees are the most prominent native tree species
on the preserve. Mature Valley Oak trees can produce up to a ton of acorns
in a good year and the Yokuts Indians valued them as a main food source.
They used it for flour, mush, cakes, etc. They called the Valley Oak the
"Mush Oak" but there’s a question as to hether it was because they made
mush from the acorn or because the wood was soft and "mushy." The round
growths on the stems of the Oak are wasp galls called "oak
apples." On the other side of the path is a patch of the native Baltic
Rush (Juncus balticus) and several very young Valley Oaks.
Santa Barbara Sedge
|4. Santa Barbara
Sedge (Carex barbarae) is an important native species here on
the Preserve. It grows in large communities which the local Indians prize
for basket weaving. It's not the green grassy part they use, but the long
fibrous rhizomes (roots) they use for the baskets. Baskets were used in
everyday life like we use bowls, plates, cups, buckets, etc.
As you enter the "riparian forest" notice how
different the plant species are from those growing in the alkali meadow.
|5. Behind the young Valley Oak are intruders
from Europe- the Bull Thistle (Cirsium
vulgare), with its sharp hair-like spines; and a pretty but toxic herb
from the carrot family- Poison Hemlock
(Conium maculatum), with its lacy fern-like leaves and flower heads.
Under your feet the path is lined with the very common Alkali
Sedge (Carex densa), a native perennial herb.
Listen for Bewick's Wrens, Oak Titmouse,
Spotted Towhees, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. What other natural
sounds do you hear in this woodland habitat?
||6) A colony of Cottontail
Rabbits live underground in this area covered in spring with the lush
-native Annual Rye Grass (Lolium multiflorum).
Mammals that nest and live mostly underground are useful in keeping soil
loose and permeable (able to absorb water). Mammals that live or take shelter
underground here are ground squirrels,
mice, gophers, voles,
rabbits, moles, foxes,
coyotes and badgers.
|7) The California Sycamore
(Platanus racemosa) is a very common species in the few remaining
riparian forests of Central California. It only grows were the underground
water table is high. Sycamores provide much needed habitat for the birds
and insects that rely on these riparian and oak woodland habitats. The
California Sycamore is long-lived, grows up to 100 feet tall and is deciduous
(losing its leaves in the fall). The tree usually has multiple trunks that
can be up to five feet in diameter. The leaves of this native species can
be more than 18 inches across.
|8) The California
Blackberry (Rubus ursinus) is making a comeback on the preserve
since grazing has been halted on the trails. Because of its much smaller
prickles (spines or thorns) the cattle find it very tasty. The berries
ripen in early summer (May/June). Do you see the large vine growing around
the young sycamore? It is the native California
Grape (Vitis californica), whose sweet fruit ripen in October.
These and other fruits provide food over a long season for much of our
wildlife.The dead log is an interesting habitat, can you imagine some of
the creatures that call it home?
|9) Do you smell the musty scent of
the Poison Hemlock? This toxic exotic herb can be fatal if
eaten or absorbed through the skin. It has taken a foothold here and will
be difficult to eradicate (get rid of), but we'll keep trying.
The aggressive thorny vine growing nearby is the
non-native Himalayan Berry (Rubus
discolor). Its large sweet blackberries ripen in late summer and provide
visitors and wildlife with delicious treats.
|10) Listen for insects and birds near the creek,
smell the pleasant herbal scent of the native California
Mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana) growing in large colonies all
around, and feel the cooler air rising up from Deep Creek.
When water is in the creek you might observe a Great Blue Heron fishing
for crawdads and frogs, or maybe you’ll see a Black Phoebe swooping over
the water to catch insects, or wood ducks paddling downstream with their
ducklings all in a row.
There’s a bench around the curve; take time
to rest and look at the bent oak and ponder what made it grow that way.
11) Fallen oaks are a common occurrence at Kaweah
Oaks Preserve. The Valley Oaks are heavily
stressed by the fluctuating groundwater table and this causes the
tree to become susceptible to disease and fungi that weaken it from the
inside out. The heartwood gets weak and mushy. You can clearly see that
by looking at the fallen oak in the picnic area. A strong wind can be the
final blow to a huge tree rotten on the inside. (A young (10-40 year
old) Valley Oak's tap root can reach 60 feet deep, to reach for groundwater.
But as the tree matures, the tap root sloughs off and the tree develops
a multi-level (tiered) root
system with feeder and sinker roots that permeate
different layers in the soil, generally from two to four feet below the
soil surface. Some of these roots extend out more than twice the drip line
(where rain drips from the canopy of the tree). This allows the tree to
avoid, rather than endure drought.) An
important ecosystem all by itself, this dead giant serves as food and habitat
to many living organisms. We leave dead trees lie where they fall because
they play a vital role in the life cycle and food chain of the
whole forest system. Shhh... watch for
blue-belly lizards here.
|12) Many non-native invasive plant species have
prospered here at Kaweah Oaks Preserve. Here we see Wild
Plum trees, Himalayan Berry, Bull
Thistle, and Milk Thistle. These were
all imported from Europe and Asia perhaps on the fur of stock or mixed
in with the wheat and barley seed. However they got here, it is an expensive
and difficult problem that Californians must continually try to control.
A few native herbs growing here are the Willow
Herb, Stinging Nettle, White
Hedge Nettle (the furry, square-stemmed herb), and
(Anemopsis californica) was called Lizard Tail by the Yokuts Indians.
This native medicinal herb was highly prized for its healing characteristics.
Today, it is enjoyed for its lovely bright white coneflowers that bloom
in late May and June. It sends out long, pinkish runners that will take
root at each leaf node, thereby freely reproducing itself. It is quite
rare in the Central Valley except in alkali meadows.
As you leave the riparian forest and re-enter
the alkali meadow, notice the change of plant life. Can you tell where
the creek runs by looking back at the trees? Do you remember which tree
species grew closer to the water? Compare the plant life in the lower area
as you look back toward the forest.
|14) Look at the big picture. Can you imagine
yourself as an early settler and seeing this great valley for the first
time? Everyday events were patches of brilliant wildflowers, great herds
of antelope and huge flocks of pigeons - so many they would block out the
sun. The native Yokuts and early settlers lived in harmony with the land
and enjoyed its bounty. But now there is precious little open space left.
Willow tree at Turtle Pond
||15) Turtle Pond is located down the slope under
the willow trees. Duckweed (Lemna minor)
floats on the surface in hot weather. Before the Duckweed covers the surface
you can watch water striders skate around
on top of the water searching for mosquitoes
and other small insects. Look for Western Pond Turtles
warming themselves on the willow branches. Once a common site along most
low elevation ponds and streams, the Western Pond Turtle is quietly disappearing
from the California landscape. Over 90% of the freshwater ponds, marshes
and year-round streams where these turtles once lived have been drained,
diverted or developed. Where Western Pond Turtles can still be found, many
reproduce, but can no longer maintain their population, the result of disturbed
nesting grounds and predation of young turtles by non-native bullfrogs.
Please stay a safe distance from the Turtle Pond in order to protect these
threatened reptiles. View them with binoculars.
We hope you have enjoyed your stroll along the
Swamp Trail and have come to value this precious place even more than you
did before visiting. Help keep Kaweah Oaks Preserve natural by leaving
it as you found it and not disturbing the native wildlife.
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:
Sierra Los Tulares Land
711 N. Court Street
Visalia, CA 93291
Youth Conservation Award
Special thanks to Charter Oak School, Ms.
TenBroeck’s 6th and 7th grade classes of 2000 for reclaiming the Swamp
Trail and developing this interpretive brochure. Congressman Cal Dooley
presented them with the Lee Wilson Youth Conservation Award for their efforts.
This fine trail was re-opened on May 13th at our annual Spring Banquet.
The 6th grade students lead guided tours for the occasion.
Congressman Cal Dooley presented Charter Oak School, Sixth Grade of
with the "Lee Wilson Youth Conservation Award" for reclaiming The Swamp
It was a long eight month process, but they finished it in time
for the annual spring banquet in May, 2000.