River Otters at Putah Creek, photo by Eve West Bessier 4/2013

Two of three Great Horned Owl chicks, photo by Eve West Bessier 4/2013

Putah Creek Riparian Reserve as seen from above.

Putah Creek Riparian Reserve upstream view from Old Davis Road bridge.

"The Putah Creek Riparian Reserve is a stream and grassland ecosystem, managed for teaching, research, wildlife and habitat protection. There are approximately 640 acres within the Reserve, with 380 at the Russell Ranch and the remainder on the main UC Davis campus. A majority of the Putah Creek Riparain Reserve lands on the main campus are open to the public for passive recreation activities, such as fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking. The south bank of the creek is privately owned, so please stay on the north bank of the creek." -From the UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve web site

NOTE: The Reserve's stated purpose is habitat preservation and research with public access granted based on "light recreation." This means it's NOT a dog-walking park or organized recreational facility as might befit a public park. A fragile ecosystem like Putah Creek Riparian Reserve exists only through thoughtful and consistent wildlife management practices, among which is limited exposure to dogs, horses and sporting activities, that might prevent wildlife observation by nature-lovers and researchers.

Rules and Such Hours are from sunrise to sundown. Getting to the Reserve is simple and easy whether by car, bike or on foot. The main entry points are just south of the UC Davis Airport's runway, at Old Davis Rd. and off Pedrick Rd. A surprisingly vast array of wildlife abound, including river otters, muskrats, large-mouth bass, blue herons, egrets, frogs, turtles, various raptors, coyotes, rabbits, and even foxes. Picnics, swimming, fishing, kayaking and hiking are encouraged. Trail-running is also popular in the Reserve. Walking the Reserve's dirt, single-track nature path takes about 1.5 hours in total, is suitable for all ages but is uneven.

Pushing a jogger, stroller or wheelchair would be problematic. The Reserve is presently NOT A.D.A.-accessible, however, plans are underway.

There are few amenities along the trail (no restrooms) and only one water source, so being self-contained with enough basic liquid and food energy is important. A few picnic tables are scattered in several areas. During the dry months, wearing a hat is essential. Licensed dogs and equestrians are allowed, so be aware of this on the lower creek trails. Although it is clearly signed that dogs MUST be on-leash at all times, oftentimes, they are not. Also, equestrians from the Equestrian Center regularly use this park, so there is some moderate trail damage and horse piles to avoid. Bikes are allowed only on the upper, levee road.

There are garbage receptacles in the Reserve only during the summer months when "Camp Putah" is in session. This means users must "pack in/pack out" all picnic leftovers and other consumables which is really a good thing. A nice addition to the park would be a series of benches strategically placed for bird-viewing, creek observation and the like.

Hunting is not allowed but fishing is quite common. A California fishing license is required. Firearms are not permitted. Call UCD Police Emergency dispatch (530) 752-1230, 911 or the park steward at (530) 219-7618 to report anyone with a firearm at the Reserve. Be sure to provide a complete description. Camping and alcohol are not permitted.

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2010-04-04 09:46:18 Hiking along Putah Creek from the airport to Road 98, I saw lots of fresh Poison Oak along the trail. Be careful. —JimStewart

2010-07-20 13:54:43   Hiking & biking there in July was pretty nice in the cool of the morning. I found a few plants blooming and some nice landscape. See my photos from Putah Creek Riparian Reserve. —BruceThomas

2013-04-27 20:20:23   Large, loose and uncontrolled dogs on the creek trails are becoming a problem. Call the park steward if this bothers you. This is a Nature Preserve not a dog park. —fknochenhauer