Codornices Creek, West Albany Hill, and Gilman Street Watersheds
The Codornices Creek Watershed is approximately 2.9 square miles of urbanized area from the Berkeley Hills to San Francisco Bay. The watershed’s network of perennial streams flow through natural channels, culverts, and storm drains in Berkeley and Albany. It encompasses approximately 4.6 miles of open creek and engineered channels, including many sections that have been restored or daylighted. One can also find vibrant communities of aquatic life and multiple access points and walking paths, particularly along Codornices Creek, which is one of Berkeley’s more natural and visible creeks. The watershed discharges through two outlets into San Francisco Bay, after traveling through three underground culverts beneath the I-580 near the Golden Gate Fields racetrack. Two of those culverted sections emerge as engineered channels that course through the mudflats of the Albany Bulb and a tidal slough, which is a fragment of the original slough.
The Gilman Street Watershed covers an area of .5 square miles of Berkeley flatlands south of the Codornices Creek Watershed. It has no creeks or open channels, but rather a network of smaller storm drains that lead to the bay.
The West Albany Hill Watershed, north of the Codornices Creek Watershed, is a mere .05 square miles (32 acres). The watershed drains to the bay via gutters and small underground storm drains (less than 24 inches in diameter).
Flora and FaunaCodornices Creek supports populations of steelhead/rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a federally protected species, as well as populations of California roach and stickleback, two native freshwater fishes. Efforts are focusing on restoring habitat for steelhead trout in hopes that they will successfully breed in the creek. The watershed features native trees, including redwood, bay laurel, buckeye, various oaks, and willow species. Several invasive species including scotch broom, eucalyptus, and ornamental ivy are present as well.Gilman Street Watershed primarily redirects urban runoff through storm drains and underground channels; therefore it has no notable flora or fauna.West Albany Hill Watershed features populations of deer and varieties of herons, hawks, and owls.
Geology and HydrologyCodornices Creek Watershed is a geologically young watershed that was formed as little as 1 million years ago by the rise of the Berkley Hills. Before the last ice age, which ended 10,000 years ago, the watershed emptied into a valley between San Francisco and the Berkeley hills. Geologic material from the Holocene Era includes alluvium, sand, silt, and gravel. After the ice age, the valley gradually filled with water as sea levels rose to form the bay.Cordonices Creek is a perennial stream that flows from the Berkeley Hills to the San Francisco Bay. Real time data, monitoring studies, and reports can be found on the Friends of Five Creeks website.Gilman Street Watershed is located on the former floodplain for Codornices Creek. The underlying geologic material is represented by alluvium, sand, silt, and gravel as deposited during the Holocene Era, about 10,000 years ago to the present.West Albany Hill Watershed is unique as West Albany Hill is made up of bedrock covered in alluvium from the Pleistocene Era over 10,000 years ago, like the low-lying land that surrounds it. Albany Hill formed from Jurassic sandstone that floated in on the Pacific Plate, upon which Franciscan complex sedimentary rocks from the Cretaceous period can be found such as sandstone, shale, and siltstone.
Major IssuesWith all three watersheds draining primarily urban areas, surface runoff carrying potentially harmful pollutants, such as fertilizers, pesticides, domestic animal waste, and other contaminants, is an important resource concern that can affect the health of the creeks and eventually the bay. Along with an increase of pollutants, the impermeable surfaces created by urbanization can result in faster and larger creek flows, known as flashy runoff, leading to erosion and bank destabilization. Codornices Creek Watershed spans urban and densely populated areas which makes urban runoff of great concern. The City of Berkeley addressed the issue of urban runoff in its Watershed Management Plan and has since adopted strategies to mitigate the potential dangers. Other concerns affecting the watersheds are invasive plant and animal species, littering, and creek encroachment by development.
Major Creeks & WaterbodiesThe major creeks of the Codornices Creek Watershed are Codornices, Village, Marin and Blackberry. Codornices Creek is the longest and most open creek in the watershed. Village Creek consists of segments of natural creek, engineered channel, and underground storm drains, with one of the segments of engineered channel designed to function like a natural creek. Marin Creek consists entirely of underground culverts and a series of storm drains. Blackberry Creek and its branches were once tributaries of Cerrito Creek, before being diverted by storm drains.
Blackberry CreekBlackberry Creek has two branches that drain the Thousand Oaks neighborhood in Berkeley and converge at John Hinkel Park and another branch, which is Capistrano. In 1990, a several-hundred-foot stretch of the creek was daylighted and is now a small park in the lower corner of the schoolyard of Thousand Oaks Elementary. Blackberry Creek used to flow through the city of Albany and merge with Cerritto Creek. Capistrano flows through a series of storm drains along Capistrano Avenue and intercepts Blackberry Creek. It now flows into the Marin Creek storm drain which drains to the Albany mudflats, elsewhere called the Albany Mudflats Ecological Reserve.
Codornices CreekCodornices Creek is a perennial creek, which drains its 1.1- square-mile watershed and flows 2.9 miles from its headwaters in the Berkeley hills to San Francisco Bay. It flows through the cities of Berkeley and Albany and is one of the least culverted creeks in the East Bay. The north and south forks converge to form the mainstem at Codornices Park, after which the creek flows downstream through the Berkeley Rose Garden and Live Oak Park. It passes the Ohlone Greenway before crossing under San Pablo Avenue and entering a restored section at 5th-6th streets along the southern edge of University Village. It then crosses under I-80 where it flows into the slough, which feeds a small salt marsh, and drains out into the bay. As Berkeley’s most intact creek, it provides habitat for native rainbow trout.
Marin CreekMarin Creek is a small seasonal creek that originates in the Berkeley hills and travels through the cities of Berkeley and Albany to San Francisco Bay. Most of the creek has been modified and flows through storm drains with a few exceptions below San Pablo Avenue and University Village. A storm drain system catches the flows from Blackberry Creek and Upper Marin Creek and discharges them from an outfall into the salt marsh above Golden Gate Fields. Lower Marin Creek is also known as Village Creek.
Village CreekSeasonal Village Creek, the western remnant of Marin Creek, drains approximately .15 square miles beginning at the intersection of Marin and Peralta Avenues. University of California Berkeley daylighted a 900-foot stretch of the creek that runs parallel to Buchanan Street along the northern boundary of University Village and provides riparian habitat. The creek passes through an engineered channel and a culvert under the freeway, reaching the north-south running slough that empties onto the Albany Mud Flats Ecological Preserve and into San Francisco Bay.
Gilman Street WatershedGilman Street Watershed covers an area of .5 square miles of Berkeley flatlands between the Codornices and Schoolhouse watersheds. It has no creeks or open channels but rather, a network of smaller storm drains that feed a main drain running down Gilman Street to the Bay, replacing the north-running slough and salt marsh that once carried water from Schoolhouse, Codornices, and Marin Creek to the Bay farther north.
West Albany Hills WatershedWest Albany Hill Watershed is very small and is approximately 0.05 square miles (32 acres). It is located adjacent to Cerrito Creek Watershed on West Albany Hill, a prominent hill along the east shore of the bay in the city of Albany. The watershed drains to the bay via gutters and small underground storm drains (less than 24 inches in diameter), which are not shown on the Google Earth watershed map.
San Francisco BayThere are very few marshlands in this area, which historically was mostly edged by sandy beach beyond a north-south tidal marsh fed by these small creeks. Only about 20 percent of the original tidal marshes that once ringed the bay remain. The typical bands of vegetation represented by cord grass, pickleweed, and gumplant, can be found in the fragmentary marsh at the mouth of Codornices, south of Buchanan where it meets the San Francisco Bay.
Recreational OpportunitiesThe Codornices Creek Watershed offers several publically accessible trails and parks for walking, biking, and recreation. But some of the best recreational opportunities in all three watersheds are located in the lower portions where the creeks empty into San Francisco Bay. These areas contain the San Francisco Bay Trail as well as several parks, walking paths, fields, and other facilities along the tidal marshlands that can be enjoyed by the public.
Codornices Creek Watershed
Lower Codornices PathThis ADA-accessible path runs from 6th to 8th streets in the city of Berkeley. Ongoing efforts include an extension of the path along Codornices Creek to San Pablo Avenue. Additional features of this project are the Creekside Discovery trail, a bike path, and educational signage.
Ohlone GreenwayThe Ohlone Greenway is an urban trail for pedestrians and bicyclists running from Berkeley to Richmond. It begins in Berkeley at the east end of Ohlone Park at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Hearst Avenue. It weaves through community parks with murals and gardens and ends north of the El Cerrito Del Norte BART Station. In the Westbrae section of Berkeley, visitors will find the Ohlone Greenway Natural and Cultural History Interpretative Exhibit. At the Berkeley-Albany border, the Ohlone Greenway passes Codornices Creek (culverted upstream but not down). Here, an observation railing built by Friends of Five Creeks, with two sculpted quails referring to the creek’s name, gives a pleasant view of the downstream segment, also “restored” by Friends of Five Creeks through ivy removal, native plantings, and bench installations. The north-south path through Strawberry Park can be walked or bicycled all the way to Richmond via the Ohlone Greenway, along the Bay Area Rapid Transit line.
Upper Branches of Codornices CreekBerkeley’s historic network of steps and paths includes several that follow or cross the upper branches of Codornices Creek. A map that shows paths and creeks is available from the Berkeley Path Wanderers Association.
Gilman Street WatershedThe San Francisco Bay Trail (Bay Trail) from Emeryville to Richmond, follows the bay shore with only one gap, west of Golden Gate Fields, which is paved and passable at all times. However, EBRPD has clear and immediate plans for improvements along this part and there are heavily used trails on both the Albany Bulb and Plateau.
West Albany Hill WatershedThe Bay Trail from Emeryville to Richmond, offers a spectacular view of San Francisco Bay from the Albany Mudflats Ecological Reserve.
Parks and Recreation
Codornices Creek WatershedFor a list of municipal parks in Berkeley, please see the Trees/Parks homepage of the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront section on the City of Berkeley website.
Berkeley Rose GardenThe Berkeley Rose Garden is a historic park with over 3,000 maintained rose bushes and was a Works Progress Administration project. It is easily accessible from Euclid Avenue and sits across from Euclid Avenue and Codornices Park, occupying the creek’s former canyon. This free and accessible park features amphitheater terracing and well-placed benches for taking in the stunning views of San Francisco Bay.
Codornices ParkCodornices Park is located in northeast Berkley at 1201 Euclid Avenue between Eunice Street and Bayview Place. Constructed in 1915, it was one of the first parks in Berkeley. Today, it offers many recreational opportunities, such as picnic areas; hiking trails among oak groves, bay trees, and redwoods; two forks of Codornices Creek; and a tunnel under Euclid Avenue that leads to the Berkeley Rose Garden. Both Codornices Creek and Live Oak Parks have historic fireplaces, built in the WWI era.
Harrison ParkHarrison Park is located in an industrial area in northwest Berkeley near 1100 4th Street at Harrison Street. The park features two lighted sports fields, a field house, and access to Codornices Creek along the northern boundary of the park.
John Hinkel ParkJohn Hinkel Park lies nestled in a hillside oak grove in northeast Berkeley with a play area, picnic area, trails for hiking, and WPA amphitheater. Blueberry and Blackberry Creeks cross the park site. Its location is at 41 Somerset Avenue between Southampton Avenue and San Diego Road.
Live Oak ParkLive Oak Park is located at Berryman Street between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street in northeast Berkeley. The 5.5-acre park is host to multiple community festivals throughout the year featuring oak groves, other native trees, and an outdoor theatre. Codornices Creek can be accessed from various locations throughout the park.
McLaughlin Eastshore State ParkMcLaughlin Eastshore State Park is managed by the East Bay Regional Park District and extends about 8.5 miles along the East Bay shoreline from the Bay Bridge to Richmond. It includes 1,854 acres of uplands and tidelands along the waterfronts of Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley, Albany, and Richmond. Pedestrian and bicycle trails run almost the entire length of the shoreline with panoramic views of the bay. Parking can be found at the western ends of Gilman Street in Berkeley and Buchanan Street in Albany, among other locations.
Albany Mudflats Ecological ReserveThe Albany Mudflats Ecological Reserve is located north of Golden Gate Fields. It contains 160 acres of tidal mudflats with a narrow band of salt marsh that includes native vegetation, such as pickleweed and cord grass. There are great numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl. Check their website for more information.
Albany WaterfrontThe Albany Waterfront begins at the end of Buchanan Street just west of I-80 and offers beautiful views of San Francisco. The southern portion includes Golden Gate Fields Racetrack. To the west is bayfill, known as “the Bulb,” which can be explored via footpaths. The Bulb belongs to the city of Albany, which hopes to incorporate it into McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.
The watershed has been a focus of revitalization efforts since the 1970s. The Lower Codornices Creek Interpretive and Restoration Project includes three components: hands-on riparian restoration, trail improvements, and environmental education. The primary restoration effort within the Codornices Creek Watershed has been the rehabilitation of salmonid populations in Codornices Creek. The Urban Creeks Council headed a restoration project at St. Mary’s College High School that removed fish barriers so as to increase access for native trout. There are several partnerships and collaborations between Codornices Creek Watershed Council and other organizations such as Friends of Five Creeks, a community creek stewardship group, to replace invasive plants with natives.
Get InvolvedSeveral volunteer and local community organizations facilitate volunteer events, ranging from general creek cleanups to removing invasive species. Resources for educators and community partners are also available.
- Alameda Countywide Clean Water Program
- Albany Mudflats Ecological Reserve
- Berkeley Path Wanderers Association
- City of Albany
- City of Berkeley
- Codornices Creek Watershed Council
- East Bay Regional Park District
- Friends of Five Creeks
- Oakland Museum of California’s Guide to Bay Area Creeks
- San Francisco Bay Trail
- Urban Creek Council