Exploring Santiago Creek in Orange County
September 26, 2011 § 7 Comments
I spent quite a bit of time in Orange County earlier this year. A bit of that time I spent enjoying tooling around on a bicycle exploring Santiago Creek, a tributary of the Santa Ana River. I shared a little of this in an earlier post specifically about the Santiago Street Bridge over Santiago Creek (and there are earlier L.A. Creek Freak pieces about Santiago Creek here and here.) Today I’ll post more of the images from my explorations – all from July 2011.
I confess that I don’t really know this creek as well as I know sites in Los Angeles… but I figured I’d share a sort of image gallery travelogue.
I think it’s a treat to explore places by tracing creeks upstream and down. I recommend this to our readers: find the creek in your neighborhood, and (preferably on a bicycle) see where it goes. Sometimes it’s all concrete… sometimes you’ll find a wetland, a park, a bridge, a bike path or something else you didn’t know was there… and you’ll get a sense for the lay of the land. If you do this, take pictures, and write up your story and we’ll run it here!
I’ve arranged these pictures in upsteam to downstream order… because I am not only a creek freak, but I am a rule freak, too! … and because that’s a good coherent order to put creek stuff in.
Here’s the view downstream from the bend where Collins Avenue turns into Prospect Street in the city of Orange, bordering on Villa Park:
There’s plenty more creek upstream of this, but this is as far I got in July. The entire stretch I explored is surrounded by suburban residential development. The creek is earthen-bottom in many areas, and concreted some. This is one of the transitions from unpaved to paved.
Here’s a shot of the rather sterile concrete area downstream of the above photo:
Unfortunately that view looks all too familiar to us L.A. Creek Freaks. Even in this area, though, there’s a fairly well-used bike/walk path:
The path is currently intermittent, starting and stopping at various points, with some new sections under construction (see below.) A bit further downstream, the creek widens and becomes soft-bottom – as shown in the photo atop this post.
The city of Orange is using Federal Stimulus funding to extend the bike path from Tustin Street to Collins Avenue.
A lot of Santiago Creek looks like the above photo: a fairly broad dry wash, with a bit of surface flow, but not all that much.
From this point downstream there are about three miles of bike path, ending at the 5 Freeway (near Main Place and the Discovery Science Center.) The bike path goes along some somewhat naturalized areas, though there’s a still a great deal of concrete and riprap reinforcement along the creek channel:
The creekbed becomes a parking lot at Hart Park:
While this might technically be considered multi-use (it’s parking and flood control), it doesn’t quite feel like a healthy mix of uses… for the health of the creek. The channel walls in this area appear pretty old, possibly a depression-era WPA project, though I am not sure. I guess it’s good that the creek is in a park, on the surface… because that can make restoration possible. There’s a fair amount of space, so it may be possible to keep some of this parking, while running a natural creek down a sort of sunken median? perhaps?
The park and parking lot creek end just downstream of Glassell Avenue, not far from the 22 Freeway:
Here’s the view downstream from the same bridge where the above photo was taken:
When the creek passes under the 22 Freeway, it goes from the city of Orange to the city of Santa Ana, where the creek is the center of the nearly mile-long Santiago Park. Santiago Park is mostly a series of small parks along the creek, and also features a nature center (the Santiago Creek Wildlife & Watershed Center), picnic areas, archery range, tot lots, and the Santiago Avenue (or Street) Bridge mini-park.
Here’s the view downstream from the Santiago Avenue Bridge – now a bike-ped way at what’s now Santiago Street:
The bike path ends at the 5 Freeway. Downstream of there is a passable unofficial footpath that gets to Jack Fisher Park (the area I explored here.) From there it’s a little under a mile to Santiago Creek’s confluence with the Santa Ana River, in the River View Golf Course… another questionable mixed-use streambed facility that I will write about one of these days.