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Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Most recent photos taken during 2010-2012 are shown here here.

The San Francisco Bay area is very rich with regional parks and wildlife refuges, more than any place I have ever seen. These parks are publicly funded and are maintained well. What makes them internesting, and it is perhaps due to the special geography of this region, is that from a completely urban surrounding one can transition to very close to nature in a very short time.

Don Edwards Fish and Wildlife Refuge is located in Fremont, California. The entrance to this park is on Thornton Avenue and is very close to the east end of the Dumbarton Bridge, which is the southernmost bridge that crosses the Bay. In the East Bay the Dumbarton Bridge (Hwy 84) is the continuation of Decoto Road. If you are coming from the East Bay on Hwy 84, you have to exit at the final exit (Thornton/Paseo Padre) before the toll plaza. At the exit ramp, turn left, go over the overpass on the highway, and within a minute the park entrance road will be seen on your right side. If coming from west, take the exit immediately after the toll plaza (Thornton/Paseo Padre), althought you don't need to pay toll coming from West. At the exit ramp, turn right and within a minute you will be at the entrance road. The park has a compact brand new (and temporary) visitor centor that replaces the old one slightly up the hill.

The Don Edwards refuge is special because it is the rare park in this region that is maintained not by the omnipresent East Bay Regional Parks but by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service system. The park has a number of trails including the Tidelands Trail, Newark Slough Trail, New Chicago Marsh and Alviso Slough Trail. Some of the trails connect to the nearby trails in Coyote Hills Regional Park. One of these trails, called the Quarry Trail, passes above the toll plaza on Hwy 84 from where you can enjoy the mesmerizing view of a long line of cars passing by underneath. Immediately after the toll plaza, on the Coyote Hills side is an abandoned stone quarry - a giant hole on the hillside.

From the point of view of photography what I like about this park are its several beautiful wooden bridges, the red hut and the marshlands with numerous birds. There are two long bridges connecting the Tidelands Trail and the Newark Slough Trail that can be photgraphed over and over again -- at dawn or dusk, in bright sunlight or under the overcast sky to give form to different moods. Recently I was able to capture some particularly lovely morning lights with background of dark cloudy skies, look at this photo for instance. Photos from 2009 are included in the second half of this page, at the bottom, click here. Most recent photos taken during 2010-2012 are shown here here.

When I visted this park for the first time around 2002, I had the pleasent surprise to see and touch large chunks of salt crystals naturally forming from the evaporation ponds. Although the ponds are still there and the water is still salty (it is part of the Bay afterall), I do not see these chunks of salt anymore.

One notable item is the Annual Endangered Species Poster Contest administerd by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service system every year for schools in Union City, Newark, Fremont, and East Palo Alto. It is a praiseworthy effort aimed at increasing nature-awareness among the locals, and the local children join this competition with great enthusiasm. See the award-winning entries of 2009. The Fish and Wildlife Service also conducts a number of popular programs on hiking, photography, wildlife watching etc, if interested see here.

For official information, please contact:
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay
National Wildlife Refuge
9500 Thornton Ave
Newark, CA 94560
Administrative Offices Phone: 510-792-0222
Visitor Contact Station Phone : 510-745-8695

[Click on any image for larger version]

Recent Photos, 2010-12

Because I live nearby, I am able to return to Don Edwards and explore the area at different times of the day, in different seasons, and in different conditions. I come back day after day; at dawn, in the morning, in the afternoon, and during sunset; in summer, in spring and in winter; during rain, under the cover of a misty veil, when the sky is cloudy gray and also in bright sunlight. In fact, taking photos of the same area over and over again is a nice and relaxing experience for me. I am not anymore setting myself up for a photo at a certain location while constantly worrying about missing the possiblity of another golden photo opportunity -- perhaps a better one, who knows -- at another location. I do not feel I need to be in many places at the same time, watching the light for its color and intensity, watching the shadows they create, and trying to compose photos in my head. I know I will just return to the same spot another day, perhaps even tomorrow. I take my own time to absorb the nature, and make friends with the rocks, the trees, the trails, the repetition of high and low tides, and the whole natural cycle.

It is quite remarkable how much we miss when we visit a location just once or twice. Yet, we express with confident contentment "Oh yes, I have been to [[place the name of your favorite location here]]". Even after visiting the Don Edwards area perhaps 100 times (or more) I notice a new thing or two each time I come back. Recently I first noticed the leaf buds of the gorgeous California Buckeye trees, slowly opening up to display their leaves, full of promise, of such an impossibly tender green shade that just looking at them one suddenly becomes hopeful for the future. Just two days ago, I saw a 10 inch long chocolate color baby snake which seemd to have just ventured out of its mother's protection. The snake, which I first mistook as a long earthworm, was extremely cute, with a nice small head and a tinny tiny split toungue!

Photos from 2009

Some recent photos are posted below. Of note are multiple photos of the La Riviere Marshland, wooden bridges, some more close-up photos of metal bolts and wood texture, and multiple views of the beautiful agave plants under different lights. I was also lucky to photograph a blimp that was lazily passing by.

[Other photos taken earlier]

Last Revised April 26, 2012

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