The Guadalupe River

The Guadalupe River runs from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the San Francisco Bay. It begins just below Mt. Umunhum in the Sierra Azul Regional Open Space Preserve in a moist Riparian environment.  Natural springs converge and create magnificent  water falls (seen below)

There is no trail along the headwaters of the Guadalupe River; just rocks, moss, and water. It is quite a breathtaking experience to be surrounded by nature: fresh air, pounding water, and a wide variety of wildlife. Even the headwaters have not escaped humanity. The trail is littered with old white wall tires, car and appliance parts, blankets, water bottles, and PVC pipe.

The Guadalupe River runs along Hicks Road until it meets with the Guadalupe Reservoir. The Guadalupe Dam was constructed in 1934 and since then the river has been rerouted, excavated, and paved to prevent floods in human inhabited areas.

The Guadalupe Landfill is to the west and the reservoir serves as a bathing location for hundreds of seagulls who have spent all day digging through human waste at the landfill.  As the Guadalupe River flows north, along Highway 87 the habitat is restricted by developement on either side. 

Don’t Eat the Fish

The Guadalupe River  is also the valley’s rain gutter outlet. It is an expressway for trash, oil, and chemicals from the streets above.  With such a large developed area channeling all its water through one source, rain storms cause flash floods and water levels dramatically increase with out notice.

This view from the Coleman Avenue overpass was taken during a heavy rain storm on March 23, 2010. The fast flooding of the Guadalupe River due to the city’s sewer system, causes erosion on what little natural river bank is left. Trees are ripped from the ground and carried at high speeds down stream.

During the rain storms, fallen trees act as a barrier and collection sight for all of the trash that has made its way from our stores, to our homes, to our river.  Such piles often smell like the chemicals they contain: spray paint, household cleaner, and motor oil. Also common among the trash piles are sports balls of every kind, cosmetics, prescription drugs, shoes, cigarette lighters, styrofoam, chip bags, and much more.

In the summer the Guadalupe is often 6ft wide at some points and the area pictured above with the overgrowth of cat tails and grasses provides nesting environments for birds, such as the Killdeer and Song Sparrow. Unfortunately, just one summer rain threatens the new broods, for their nests could be wiped out in a matter of seconds.

The Guadalupe River continues North through downtown and along the east side of the San Jose International Airport. The concrete subsides for a bit as the water flows down a deeper channel and trees begin to cover the river from view.


As we approach the  San Francisco Bay the Guadalupe river flows through the Alviso Slough. The insect life is abundant here and Jackrabbits scamper about the succulent grasses. Unfortunately the human pollution flows all the way through the slough to the bay.

They have divided this portion of the bay into a grid system of levies to make it possible for Amtrak to cross the once abundantly fertile wetlands.

From the bay out to the open ocean our everyday actions affect the ecosystems of the world. Through pavement and water we move the toxic contents of our lives into the lives of the native creatures of the land. I encourage all to think critically think about their every day routines and actions that could be changed for the betterment of the environment.

The Guadalupe River is sometimes serene and sometimes shocking but is always wonderful to explore.  Many species of flora and fauna call this river home; explore the other Guadalupe tabs on this site to delve further into our local waterway.

2 Responses to The Guadalupe River

  1. Jay says:

    Hey Greg,
    Well done and informative website! I have not explored all the places you’ve documented yet, but I plan to. I will forward this site to other concerned community members and some who have some clout in conservation movements/organizations around here. Peace.
    Trilium flowers and slippery moss,
    Jay

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