The 22-square-mile Old Alameda Creek Watershed, part of the larger Alameda Creek Watershed, drains a portion of the East Bay hills in Hayward, then spreads through urban flatlands before flowing to San Francisco Bay. Ward Creek and Zeile Creek drain the hills surrounding California State University East Bay (CSUEB), connect to a series of engineered channels and culverts in the lower watershed, and eventually join the historic path of Alameda Creek, now called Old Alameda Creek.
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In the 1970s, twelve miles of Alameda Creek was channeled, then diverted at Cann Park in Union City to flow south of its historic path. This diversion, now known as the Alameda Creek Flood Control (ACFC) Channel
, flows from Niles Canyon to the bay near Coyote Hills Regional Park. Although it is now channeled from Hesperian Boulevard to San Francisco Bay, Old Alameda Creek still flows to its historic outlet through Eden Landing, a 5,500-acre wetland restoration site. The creek bed extends from the channeled section near Hesperian Boulevard to its historic upstream path at Cann Park. Here it connects to the ACFC Channel via a gated culvert that allows water to flow from the channel into Old Alameda Creek when water is high.
Flora and Fauna
The upper reaches of Old Alameda Creek Watershed, particularly the undeveloped areas, support diverse vegetation communities typical of the East Bay hills. In some areas closer to the urban interface, highly invasive plants like French broom and pampas grass are also prevalent. The East Bay Regional Park District’s (EBRPD) Wild Plant Checklist
for Garin Regional Park, located in the upper watershed, includes all plants identified within the park and is a good example of typical flora in the area. The upper watershed area also contains important habitat for sensitive wildlife species such as the California red-legged frog and Alameda striped racer. Old Alameda Creek supports common fish species such as the threespine stickleback and prickly sculpin. Migratory fish, however, disappeared in the 1960s with the construction of dams and water diversions. In recent years, migrating steelhead trout have been found in Old Alameda Creek, but conditions for successful spawning do not exist.The Old ACFC Channel lies almost entirely in former salt ponds now being restored to tidal marsh and managed wetlands as part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
. The restoration will provide important habitat for nesting and migratory shorebirds and waterfowl. Some managed wetlands will remain as saline pond habitat areas for shorebirds that stop here during their migration or have taken up residence. In particular, the Western snowy plover, a federally listed threatened species, nests on islands within salt ponds. Although the snowy plover now breeds in salt ponds, it probably did not breed in San Francisco Bay prior to the 1800s when more intensive salt production began. The American avocet and black-necked stilt also began breeding in the bay after intensive salt production began.
Geology and Hydrology
The Old Alameda Creek Watershed was shaped by sediments deposited over thousands of years from San Lorenzo Creek to the north and Alameda Creek to the south. San Lorenzo Creek deposited sediments at its exit from the East Bay hills, the apex of the creek’s wide alluvial fan. Here sediments accumulated, leaving a rise that descends bayward. Ward Creek drains northwesterly across Jurassic period volcanic rock before making a sharp southwest turn away from the rise. Zeile Creek begins a similar southwesterly turn around the rise before joining Ward Creek. Historically Ward Creek flowed southwest to the bottom of the rise where it flowed into Alameda Creek.
Old Alameda Creek is listed as a polluted water body as defined by the Clean Water Act because the amount of trash in the creek impairs “beneficial uses” for wildlife and recreation. To ensure water flow, maintenance crews for the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Quality District (ACFCWQD) must routinely remove trash from the creek near Eden Landing Ecological Reserve. Siltation is another major issue that further impedes water flow in the channelized portion of the creek. The channel is subject to tidal action and receives both estuarine and upstream sediment. ACFCWQD must remove the accumulation and redeposit it in areas in San Francisco Bay with sediment deficits. The restoration at Eden Landing was designed so that tidal action would scour sediments within the channel and build natural tidal marsh channels in the former salt ponds.
Major Creeks & Waterbodies
Ward Creek and Zeile Creek drain the north and south sides of CSUEB, respectively. The creeks abruptly turn southwest as they make their way through an approximately six-mile-wide area of urban flatlands in Zone 3 of the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (the District). Ward Creek engineered channel is joined by three other major engineered channels, the District’s lines D, N, and A2, before joining a second major flood control channel, the Old Alameda Creek Flood Control (Old ACFC) Channel, so named because it forms a western extension of Old Alameda Creek. The former Cargill Salt Ponds, currently being restored as tidal marsh and managed wetlands, surround Old Alameda Creek along its approach to the bay.
Zeile Creek drains the north portion of Garin Regional Park in Hayward then runs along the border between the park and California State University East Bay (CSUEB). The creek drains the neighborhood south of CSUEB and flows through Holy Sepulchre Cemetery before heading underground at Mission Boulevard. It then flows through culverts and engineered channels before joining the Ward Creek engineered channel at Huntswood Avenue.
Ward Creek flows westward from the Hayward hills northeast of CSUEB through Memorial Park and into Ward Creek engineered channel where it is joined by several other flood control networks before entering the Old Alameda Creek Flood Control (Old ACFC) Channel.
Lines H and D
The Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District uses a naming system for flood control zones and drainage lines within zones. The Old Alameda Creek Watershed is in Zone 3, through which several major lines flow to the Ward Creek channel. Engineered culverts as far north as Highway 92 drain to Line H, which eventually joins the channel at I-880. Line D accepts drainage from the area surrounding the South Hayward BART Station and from Line N, which drains the area north of the Dry Creek Watershed. It then runs southwest along Industrial Parkway until it joins the Ward Creek channel.
Old Alameda Creek and Flood Control Channel
Old Alameda Creek still flows in its original natural channel as far as Cann Park in Union City. The lower portion of the creek was rerouted when the Alameda Creek Flood Control (ACFC) Channel was constructed in the early 1970s, diverting the flow south in a more direct line to the bay. The Old ACFC Channel to the north receives most of its flow from Ward Creek engineered channel and Line A2, which drains the San Mateo Bridge approach south of Highway 92. Line A2 collects runoff through a series of culverts then parallels the railroad tracks heading southeast to the Old ACFC Channel.
The Baylands at Eden Landing Ecological Reserve
The Old ACFC Channel flows to San Francisco Bay through Eden Landing Ecological Reserve
, 5,500 acres of former industrial salt ponds extending from the south side of the San Mateo Bridge approach to the ACFC Channel. Eden Landing is being restored to tidal marsh and managed wetlands as part of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
. Old Alameda Creek has been breached in several places where it formerly bisected the salt ponds, making it an integral part of the varied wetland habitats.
For people looking to explore the watershed, there are several trails and parks accessible to the public for walking, biking, and recreation.
Butters Canyon – Upstream Dirt Trail
A shady, narrow, and curving road that is available to residential users, walkers, and bicyclists.
Peralta Hacienda-DeAnza Trail
Begin at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, a popular destination on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. See the signage to learn about the historical importance of the area, then take a long walk crossing Peralta Creek and heading southeast to Courtland Creek. Follow the creek up to Fairfax and Maxwell parks. Hike over the hill to Mills College, and return to the starting point via the Laurel district.
Parks and Recreation
Allendale Recreation Center is a community-based facility in the center of Oakland that offers free or low-cost programs for people of all backgrounds. The center includes two baseball fields, a picnic area, outdoor basketball courts, play structure, and other amenities.
Brookdale Park is in East Oakland between High Street and Eastman Avenue. It offers green space as well as baseball fields and basketball courts.
Butters Canyon is a half-mile stretch of wild, woodsy land along Butters Drive, just off Joaquin Miller Road in Oakland, California. This serene oasis of native trees houses hundreds of species of wildlife and plants and represents a green riparian and wildlife corridor at the headwaters of Peralta Creek. The canyon is enjoyed daily by dozens of neighbors and people around the bay, including many groups of cyclists.
Courtland Creek Park
Courtland Creek Park is a five-block linear park located one block south of High Street between 45thand Brookdale avenues along Courtland Avenue. It was designated an official Oakland park in May 1997. The walking park has two staircases lead down to Courtland Creek. Local murals and artwork decorate the park, and two rows of plum trees represent the route of the Leona streetcar line that once passed through.
Peralta Hacienda Historical Park is located at the corner of Coolidge Avenue and Hyde Street. It is a six-acre park that includes the historic Core Adobe Area, the 1870 Peralta House, and the Peralta Creek Nature Area. The park is open year-round and offers locals and visitors art and educational programs, museum exhibits, and an outdoor space for community programs, classes, and recreation.
Ongoing restoration projects in the watershed serve to provide flood protection, enhance the environment, and rehabilitate natural habitat. At the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, volunteers rise to the challenge planting natives, picking up trash, and maintaining the native plant garden. In the upper parts of Peralta Creek Watershed, the Butters Conservation Conservancy
focuses on the following restoration activities: invasive plant control, soil erosion management, trash removal and fire abatement, and native plant establishment. The overarching goals are to reduce non-native vegetation, increase biodiversity, promote stewardship, and increase awareness. For more detailed information, see the Long-Term Management Plan on the Butters Conservation Conservancy website. Additional restoration projects are featured on Google Earth watershed map for Western Alameda County.Beginning in 2006, a 300-foot underground culvert was demolished by the District to daylight the creek, and banks were widened to enable it to carry a 100-year flood. The creek was restored with a more natural step-pool system and native plants on the banks. An amphitheater, pedestrian trail, bridge, lighting, and interpretive signs were added to further enhance the area.
There are several organizations that fund or provide free watershed education programs and resources for residents and teachers in the Peralta Creek Watershed. There are also many opportunities to get involved in creek cleanups, restoration efforts, and other volunteer activities. Please review our list of organizations providing volunteer and educational opportunities for the public, which includes some of the major organizations coordinating work in the watershed. Many additional links to volunteer and educational opportunities can also be found by visiting these sites.