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Dripping Down The Rivers

Cottonwood, Knights Ferry (11/3/19) Jim Adams

Fall color is dripping down the rivers through the central valley.

Color spotter Jim Adams provides a First Report from Knight’s Ferry where he attended the annual pumpkin roll to find riverside cottonwood and willows and walnut orchards at peak.

Willow, Knights Ferry, Stanislaus River (11/3/19) Jim Adams

He reports that down the Stanislaus River in Oakdale, cottonwood and valley oak have yet to peak.

  • Knights Ferry, Stanislaus River (213′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Yosemite Is Still At It

Half Dome reflection in the Merced River, Photographer’s Bridge, Yosemite Valley (11/2/19) Clayton Peoples

Yosemite National Park is a progressive peak.

It begins in the high country, with pockets of aspen and willows turning, then descends to Yosemite Valley and along the Wawona Road with bigleaf maple and dogwood providing a colorful blend of hot pink and cadmium yellow.

Then, orange black oak and golden cottonwood complete the show from the week before Halloween through the first two weeks of November.

Clayton Peoples was there yesterday (Nov. 2) to confirm that “Yosemite Valley is still sporting peak conditions.”

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Finding Gold in Rich Bar

Unmarked graves, Rich Bar (11/2/19) Michael Beatley

It’s name speaks of its wealth … Rich Bar.

In the 1850s, Rich Bar in the Feather River Canyon attracted thousands of argonauts. Many never left. Gravemarkers, memorials and headstones tell a grim story of their fates.

Mining accident … drowned … illness … hanged for theft … murdered … stabbed … hanged for murder … accidental shooting … killed in duel … shot … gunshot suicide.

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley spent a day exploring his county’s historic places and came back with a few visual nuggets, though no real gold.

He reports that the oak and dogwood are still golden. Union Pacific tracks pass near Rich Bar along the Feather River, for those who enjoy combining rail and fall color photography.

  • Rich Bar, Plumas County (2,402′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.

Decent Color Declines

Kentucky Mine, Sierra City (11/2/19) Philip Reedy

“Decent color is getting hard to find,” wrote Philip Reedy of a scouting trip he took through Plumas County. “Most of the color is gone.”

He was surprised, however, by the color surrounding Sardine Lake at 6,000′, from the black oak near Bassetts Station (CA-49) and enveloping the historic buildings at Kentucky Mine in Sierra City (now closed for the season).

And, to show his ride also promotes what he does, Phil – who photographs fly fishing – sent this image of his license plate.

  • Plumas County – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.

Silverwood Turns Gold

Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains is a great recreational destination, popular for water sports and for fishing rainbow trout, largemouth bass, striped bass, Channel catfish and bluegill.

Because the Silverwood Lake is lightly forested, it is not often reported for fall having much fall color. However, Silverwood’s cottonwood, oak and willows are now Near Peak to Peak.

The leading reason to head to Silverwood lake is its recreation, though for the moment, fall color will greet you warmly as it did color spotter Chien-Chang Kyle Chen, today.

  • Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino Mountains (3,356′) Chien-Chang Kyle Chen – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!

Caught and Released

Native rainbow trout, Merced River, Yosemite NP (10/26/19) Lance Pifer

Color spotter Lance Pifer lost track of how many of Yosemite’s wild rainbow trout he caught and released at 25.

The best place to net native rainbows is on the Merced River, below Yosemite Valley. A spot favored by park employees is the Cascade Creek picnic area above the Arch Rock entrance station. Walk downstream from the picnic area to find holes little fished by park visitors.

Lance was fishing on the South Fork of the Merced River, four miles upstream from the Wawona Hotel and Illilouette Creek which is a tributary of the Merced.  He notes that some really big brown trout can be had on the south fork of the Merced above the main fork.  

Other non-natives in the national park, include brook, golden and Lahontan cutthroat trout, but the rainbow are the only native trout.

Lance noted how amazing Yosemite was with color peaking and temperatures in the 80s. That’s changed since he visited. Daytime temperatures are now 40 degrees cooler.

Best valley fall color is now found among the black oak at Cooks Meadow, near Yosemite Falls.

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

El Rio de las Plumas

Rail and automobile bridges crisscross in the Feather River Canyon (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

John Marsh and Jose Noriega were exploring Northern California in 1836, traveling up the Sacramento River in dugout canoes, when they came to a tributary to the Sacramento that was covered in feathers. They named the newly discovered tributary, El Rio de las Plumas, River of the Feathers.

Feather River (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

The Feather River is one of California’s great waterways. Most impressively, it drops 4,350′ in its first 74 miles.

That makes it not only one of America’s most scenic rivers but also one of the most productive at generating hydroelectric power.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co., gets a good part of its energy from Feather River hydroelectric plants in a “stairway of power” that climbs from Lake Oroville to Mountain Meadows Reservoir, above Lake Almanor.

Along CA-70, a beautiful mix of fall color can be seen growing beside the river and the creeks that run into it. Willow, black oak, bigleaf maple, dogwood, grasses and Indian rhubarb are now at peak and reflecting their chartreuse, yellow, gold, orange and red colors in the river’s clear waters.

Dogwood, Feather River (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Plumas County color spotter Jeff Luke Titcomb drove down the canyon from Greenville to Beldon Town Resort.

We’ll let you in on a secret. Jeff didn’t make the trip just to scope out fall color. He treated himself to a cheeseburger at Beldon Town. Though, he did find peak fall color at Indian Creek, Feather Falls, Twain, Beldon Town and Howell’s Bridge, not to mention a scary jack o’lantern in the Beldon Town store.

Beldon Town Resort Store, Feather River (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb
  • Feather River (CA-70) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Wind Is A-Peeling

Heavy winds lashed Northern California, yesterday, stripping many trees of turned leaves.

While driving along Blue Ravine Rd in Folsom leaves littered the road in great piles and would swirl and chase vehicles as they passed.

In Shasta County, Martha Fletcher reported the wind as peeling leaves from trees and shrubs. However, trees that had not yet reached abscission continue to hold onto their leaves.

At Fall River Mills, black oak and redbud are full of yellow, dark rust, dark orange and red. Their colors provide a beautiful contrast to the sparkling whitewater of Pit River Falls.

  • Pit River (3,400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Yosemite Glows, Eastside Snows

Half Dome, Photographer’s Bridge, Yosemite Valley (10/26/19) Benjamin Vu

Black oak have begun to glow in Yosemite Valley, like jack o’ lanterns on All Hallows Eve.

By Halloween and into the first two weeks in November, their leaves will darken to a deep orange. Contrasted against their black trunks and branches, they are California’s Halloween tree.

Southern California color spotter Benjamin Vu captured these images at the beginning of their transition from yellow to orange. Look for the tell-tale black trunks to identify black oak (Quercus Kelloggii). Other trees in Vu’s photos are mostly cottonwood.

San Jose color spotter Son Nguyen found it perfect on Saturday, but strong winds and hail arrived on Sunday, stripping oaks of their leaves. He doubts they will last to the coming weekend.

At Fern Spring (Yosemite Valley) trees are bare at the spring, though “dogwood and maple are fantastic from the Pohono Bridge to Bridalveil Fall.”

Son was disappointed to find the bridge closed for construction with a large container on it in a way that would ruin any shot of the bridge. He estimates this area “will last another week, despite the hail.”

El Capitan Meadow was hit hard by the storm and most of the oaks “were done by Sunday afternoon.” Nguyen notes that he’s visited Yosemite Valley many times, but finds, “this is the weirdest year, ever. Usually, black oak are the last to start, but they’re pretty early this year,” though he added, “that makes the whole valley spectacular because of a different mix of colors.”

If there any black oaks remain to peak in the Valley, they likely will be found at Cooks Meadow, below Yosemite Falls, which Nguyen rates as Patchy.

Typically, Cooks Meadow’s peak continues past Halloween for a week or two, but considering the strong winds predicted this week, we will need additional reports from Yosemite spotters to say whether fall color will continue hanging on in the Valley.

Son found the go-to spot to be the Wawona Road near the south entrance of the park (CA-41 – Fishcamp), which he described as “amazing” and that “will last for a while. The dogwood is the best in this area. Strawberry Creek and Bishop Creek along the Wawona Road are also great.” 

Round Valley, US 395 (10/27/19) Benjamin Vu

Returning to So. Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 27, Benjamin Vu crossed Tioga Pass to the eastside, then drove south on US 395, finding black cottonwood and black oak at Peak near McGee Creek Canyon as a light snow swirled around his vehicle, while hail was dropping on the westside.

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • US395 (4,100′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Siskiyou Sonata

Mount Shasta, Siskiyou County (10/25/19) Philip Reedy

Sometimes, spent color is the most beautiful of all.

Appliance Graveyard, CA-96 (10/25/19) Philip Reedy

Philip Reedy photographed dazzling fall color beside the Upper Sacramento and McCloud Rivers in Siskiyou County, then also found beauty in the spent grasses and wind-swept oaks of late autumn.

He was out for another of his fly fishing photography expeditions, this time with stops at Castle Crags State Park, Mossbrae Falls and the Cantera Loop, all near Dunsmuir, then north along the Klamath River and into the Seiad Valley.

What’s interesting about Phil’s first two shots (top of page) is that the first is a classic landscape depicting a California icon, but not as Mt. Shasta is typically presented. Instead of being bright and heroic, his view is moody and reflective. The second is of discarded appliances leaning beside a deteriorating shed.

The first image is classic artistic landscape photography, but so too is the second. More importantly, the latter one confirms the idiom, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Click photos to enlarge.

Milkweed (10/25/19) Philip Reedy
Bigleaf maple (10/25/19) Philip Reedy

Reedy shares my view that while the oaks aren’t as colorful as aspen, they have their own distressed beauty, and again his photographs are showing bigleaf maple can be other colors than French’s mustard.

Siskiyou County is a visual sonata right now, though rush to see it. As, strong winds now lashing Northern California (100 mph posted at Lake Tahoe) will surely be transporting these leaves south to the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

  • Siskiyou County – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.