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Technically, it’s Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Education Center, which is quite a mouthful. There are selected paintings from “The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley” currently on display at the center. Today, they sponsored a reception and ‘meet the artist’. It turned out to be quite fun! We had some nice refreshments, then I talked for awhile, visited, and answered a wide range of questions. Some took a guided nature hike through part of the Refuge. I talked about art, indian legends, magic, ghosts, history, flight, conservation, the environment, but mostly about the creeks and waterways in Silicon Valley. My goal was for everyone to look ‘under the surface’ of what is around them in Silicon Valley to appreciate what used to be called “The Valley of Heart’s Delight”. From what I could tell no one fell asleep, and everyone seemed to have a good time!
Just a few pictures of the afternoon courtesy of my friend, past work associate, and great photographer, Scott Loftesness. If you haven’t seen some of Scott’s photos, you should check them out here and here.
The exhibit will be up until the late fall and we don’t really have an end date yet. If you haven’t seen it, or been out to the center, it is certainly worth the trip!
During my quest of painting the creeks of Silicon Valley, stuff I painted in many places, medicine but almost all the creeks end up in the marshes of the San Francisco Bay in what is now called the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge encompasses most of the southern portions of the bay, generic and is a wonderful reclamation of land once used for industrial purposes.
We put up 18 paintings specifically from the Coyote Creek Watershed in their Education Center today. The paintings will be on display now until the fall. A special event is scheduled for September 5, which is free, but you must sign up here.
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There is a bonafide ghost town right smack dab in the middle of Silicon Valley!
Many don’t know about the little town of Drawbridge, a once thriving community located on the cusp of southern San Francisco Bay in what is now Fremont, California. It is now a ghost town sinking into San Francisco Bay.
Beginnings Drawbridge got it’s start in 1876 when a narrow-gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad was built from Santa Cruz to Alameda. The ‘town’ initially consisted of one small cabin on Station Island for the operator of the railroad’s two drawbridges (they were actually swing bridges, but the name stuck), crossing Mud Creek Slough and Coyote Creek Slough.
It didn’t take long for others to join him for some drinking, hunting, and fishing, and soon it became a regular train stop. By the 1880s, upwards of a thousand would come on weekends for the abundant hunting and fishing. Soon 10 stops a day was common for passenger trains up and down the track, which was the only way into town other than by boat.
By the 1920s, the town had reached its heyday, growing to about 90 buildings including a couple hotels and restaurants, many with wells and electricity. During prohibition, the town gained a reputation for having speakeasies, gambling, brothels, and heavily armed residents. The residents were split into two communities: The Protestants lived in North Drawbridge, and the Catholics resided in South Drawbridge. While there was quite a bit of feuding, they also had “tide parties” where residents would row to neighbors’ houses for socials at high tide.
In 1955 the trains no longer stopped in Drawbridge, and all but two last residents moved away. The last resident left around 1979.
There is quite a bit of information on the Internet if you google “drawbridge ca”. Some of the better links are here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Huel Howser’s Golden California TV Series did an episode on it which can be found here.
It is now closed to the public, and hefty fines can be levied if caught there, however, people do go there all the time, mainly kids I think, looking for an adventure, gather relics, and to leave graffiti. A rave party was reportedly broken up there awhile back. The closest legal way to see Drawbridge (other than from a train) is trekking over two miles on the Mallard Slough Trail from the Alviso end (painted in ThirtyThree: Sin City) of Don Edwards Preserve.
Drawbridge has been on my list from almost the start of this quest and I spent more time researching it than any other painting. Since it is closed to the public, and can be dangerous, I asked special permission from the Public Affairs Officer of the Wildlife Refuge to go paint it for a day, but the Manager of the Refuge turned me down. Although they were quite interested in my quest, the answer was eventually no. Time for Plan B.
Last Saturday I took a tour sponsored by the Wildlife Reserve and conducted by Ceal Craig, president of the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Society. After a historical presentation, the tour takes you via van to a viewpoint where you can see the remains across Coyote Slough. (If you are interested in a free tour, space is limited and you have to sign up, but do it early as they always sell out. Click here for more information.)
Here are a few pictures I took on the tour prior to going out and painting, using a zoom video camera to take some of these pictures– Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***
View from the vantage point I painted from. You needed binoculars to really see much.
I used the closest viewable building as the main focus of interest in the painting.
Zoomed in view of Drawbridge.
Zoomed in view of Drawbridge.
From another viewpoint of Drawbridge. You can make out the words TESLA in the background just right of center.
From another viewpoint of Drawbridge.
There are plenty of other, better closeup pictures on the web, many taken by what I am guessing are trespassers. If interested, start here.
Since it wasn’t legal to go into town, I did the next best thing and painted it from across Coyote Slough. This greatly limited what I could do with the composition, but had to go with what was practical. It would have been nicer to paint right in the town for a better composition, but I wasn’t interested in getting caught by the feds!
On painting day, rode my bike the over two miles on the dirt levy trail to the viewpoint. They recently built some informational displays and a park bench, which came in handy. To keep light weight, I took my mini Open Box M pochade box and just sat on the bench and painted. Not another soul was seen the entire time I was there. It was really windy, and had to constantly monitor my materials to make sure they didn’t blow into the slough!
How great it was to be way out in the marshlands with only the sounds of the tide going out and an occasional waterfowl winging by! I probably spent as much time just sitting there soaking the environment as painting!
Here’s a few pictures on painting day– Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***
The area is teeming with waterfowl.
Looking back over the levy trail I rode to the painting spot. The new Levi Stadium can be seen in the background on the left.
My bike with the painting equipment on the bench.
My pochade box on the bench.
Here’s a 180 panorama of the scene. The railroad trestle on the left replaced the old swing/drawbridge many years ago. Click on the picture to view a larger version–
It’s a little tough to paint what should be an expansive scene on an 8×10 canvas, but tried to include as much as I could without it looking too ‘busy’. In the back upper left is the entrance to Niles Canyon painted in Nine, Ten: Charlie Chaplin. The city of Fremont is also in the background, and we could see the new Tesla Plant with the naked eye. I made sure to include the train tracks on the left, as that is why the town is there. There is just a peek of Coyote Slough at the bottom which Coyote Creek empties into. This is the fifth painting in this quest of Coyote Creek as it is a major creek and one of the few which runs year round.
Duck blinds can be spotted around the south bay, and from what I can determine are for public use, first come, first served. There are also many duck clubs. To some, a duck club may seem nothing more than a mosquito-infested swamp inhabited by stealthy men in camouflage holding shotguns. But in the San Francisco Bay area, including Silicon Valley, duck hunting has been a bailiwick of established money for more than a century.Â Many of San Franciscoâ€™s prominent families have a duck club (or two) among their assets.
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The nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge wraps around the southern end of San Francisco Bay, and with over 23,000 acres, proclaims itself the largest urban wildlife refuge in the country. The refuge, created in 1974, was largely the result of grassroots efforts by the local community to protect the San Francisco Bay ecosystem. Â Located along the Pacific Flyway, the Refuge hosts over 280 species of birds each year.
Following the California gold rush in 1849, a population boom created explosive development on sensitive lands in the the San Francisco Bay Area. Â As I mentioned in Twentyone: Baylands Fun, the salt industry converted tens of thousands of acres of salt marsh into commercial salt ponds. Â Nearly 85% of the bay’s original marshes and shorelines have been altered. Â The San Francisco Bay Area still hosts one of only two sea salt works in the entire United States, as some still remain.
Spearheaded by local citizens, Congressman Don Edwards, worked with Congress to create the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge which was later renamed to Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Its mission, is to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat; protect migratory birds and threatened and endangered species; and provide opportunities for wildlife-oriented recreation and nature study for the surrounding communities. More info can be found here.
Leaving before the crack of dawn to beat the bay area traffic, the skies were partly cloudy. Soon after I left the house, the sun peeked over the eastern hills and the sunrise was wonderful. Not knowing what kind of skies there would be after the 45 minute drive to the refuge, I stopped and made some color notes. When I got to the refuge, it was somewhat overcast, so took some artistic license to combine the mornings sunrise with the view of the marsh.
Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***
The sunrise as I was driving to Don Edwards.
La Riviere Marsh, the basic scene I painted.
A local nearby where I was painting.
Looking back the trail to my easel.
I painted 46 close to the refuge’s headquarters located at the edge of industrial Newark of La Riviere Marsh, named after Florence La Riviere who was instrumental in forming the refuge. There are so many cross channels in this area, it is hard to identify which creek feeds these marshlands, but it is part of the Sanjon de los Alisos Creek watershed, and close to that creek, so will record it as such. Historically, this creek would carry off waters when Alameda Creek flooded out of its banks. It now carries urban runoff into Newark Slough.
I was almost finished with the piece when a friendly ranger told me I was illegally parked and should move, even though I carefully checked that there weren’t any ‘No Parking’ signs along the road there. So I quickly packed up and forgot to take a picture of the painting on the easel.
What a great place to paint! I could spend a week just in the area around the headquarters as it is full of great scenesâ€¦ besides the marshes, estuaries, wildlife, and bay views, there are plenty of old buildings and historical structures. My next blog entry will be another painting that morning in the same area. I had a short conversation with the Public Affairs Officer, and he liked the idea of seeing more artists in the area paintingâ€¦so all you bay area artists, check it out!
Hereâ€™s a few more scenes of the area to wet your appetiteâ€” Click on a thumbnail to open up a larger picture and slide show***
Stay tuned for more about that last picture in the next weblogâ€¦