Big Rock Ridge is the defining topographical feature of Northeast Marin, dividing Novato’s Ignacio Valley from San Rafael’s Lucas Valley. At 1,895 ft, this is the second highest point in the county, and the highest that is untamed and hence unshortened by roads and motors. Some work is required to gain the pleasures of reality rather than reverie, but those rewards are real and numerous: unobstructed 360-degree views and aquiline omniscience, breathing room above the lowland hubbub, and the company of birds and plants that eschew civilization’s crowds and tethers.
If any geographical feature has risen above the flat valley of Novato’s civic and commercial life to achieve a visible prominence in the mental landscape of its citizens, that feature is Mount Burdell. It’s a name that vividly conjures up the idea of a place to thousands of Novato citizens, of a sunlit expanse of green hillsides dotted with wildflowers and vast, benignant oaks. And no time is better to visit than spring, when the mountain fills with the songs of newly arrived migratory songbirds.
Up in the hills to the west of Mount Burdell are the headwaters of Novato Creek, which then tumbles down through the rolling slopes until it runs into the Stafford Dam and forms the placid Stafford Lake, which now provides around 20% of our town’s water (the remainder comes from the Russian River). Much of […]
Olompali State Historic Park encompasses a cluster of historical buildings and the wooded slopes that rise above them to the summit of Mount Burdell on the northern border of Novato. As with our other parks of predominantly north-facing slopes (including much of Indian Valley and Indian Tree), the topographical conditions here favor more continuous woodland compared […]
Indian Valley Open Space Preserve is a modest slice of forested foothills on the north side of Big Rock Ridge. That significant barrier to the south comprises the main topographical influence here, casting its long shadow over Indian Valley’s web of trails and modest hills, which rarely reach much over 400 ft. or so within […]
Deer Island is not exactly an island, at least not anymore. These days it is a lightly-used open space preserve in eastern Novato, centered around a hill which rises from the surrounding flatlands which were once part of the Petaluma River delta. One nice thing about Deer Island is its convenient, digestible smallness: a short […]
Guest Site Profile by Susan Kelly The Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds is the birding community’s name for the complex of sewage treatment ponds, tidal mudflats, salt marsh, and agricultural fields around the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District plant in San Rafael. The wastewater facility includes four treatment ponds and two miles of flat levee trails […]
Within these pages, we often praise Marin’s system of open space preserves. These areas are what we typically think of when we talk about bird habitat—natural plant and wildlife communities that have been preserved intact among the surrounding matrix of human development. The Hamilton Wetlands, in contrast, have not merely been preserved, but actually re-created. […]
Novato is home to several preserves that seem to be well known among birders: Rush Creek, Mount Burdell, Stafford Lake, and the Hamilton Wetlands all pop up regularly in the lists of seasonal sightings, perhaps aided by their relatively prominent public access points and often quick and easy access to patches rich with easy sightings. […]
Rush Creek Open Space Preserve on the northern border of Novato offers several hundred acres of public wetlands and woodlands, but is set alongside several thousand more acres of protected land together comprising the largest natural tidal brackish marsh in California, including the Petaluma River marshlands managed by California Fish and Wildlife and Marin Audubon’s […]