Monday, July 4, 2016

A treasure house of rare biota: Rush Ranch in the Suisun Marsh

Woodcraft owl watching Rush Ranch
The Suisun Marsh is a brackish marsh in the San Francisco Bay-Delta estuary system, California. This ecosystem includes bays, sloughs and tidal wetland. Today, the large, open marsh space attracts visitors with interest in both natural and human history. At its center: Rush Ranch, the first property that the Solano Land Trust purchased in 1988 to serve as a hub for scientists, historians, birders, hikers and anyone who loves outdoor & community activities.
Rush Ranch horses with marshland in the background
Upon my first arrival at Rush Ranch on a hot and sunny summer day, a friendly ranger immediately introduced me to the barn owls spending their time in the dark corners underneath the barn roof. An owl crafted out of wood pieces can be found at the visitor center (top picture). There are several hiking trailswell-marked loop trails—to explore the marshland, pasture land and the open hill sites east of the ranch buildings.

Cream-bush flower cluster in summer
In front of the visitor center you will find the Native Plant Garden of Rush Ranch, dedicated by the Solano Land Trust Board of Directors to Marilyn Farley (Executive Director, 2005 to 2009).  Featured plant species include sticky monkey flower, coast live oak, white sage, toyon and cream bush. The drought-tolerant cream bush (Holodiscus discolor) is named for its creamy-white drooping flower spray. In summer, the showy flowers loose their flirty creaminess and age into stiff, brown clusters, as shown in the right-side picture.

The kiosk next to the stable area provides an overview of rare and endangered species that may be spotted in the habitats around the ranch:

The Rush Ranch is notable because of the occurrence of at least twelve rare or endangered species. Endangered animals include the salt marsh harvest mouse, the Suisun shrew, the Suisun Marsh song sparrow, the black rail, and clapper rail. The waterways of the Suisun Marsh area support populations of Delta smelt, an endangered fish species restricted to the California Delta and upper Bay. Rare plants found here include the Suisun aster, Jepson's tule pea, hispid bird's beak, Suisun thistle, Contra Costa goldfields, and Mason's lilaeopsis. In this regard Rush Ranch is a treasure house of rare biota.


Getting to Rush Ranch
The Rush Ranch is located between Suisun Slough and Suisin Hill south of  Fairfield/Suisun City. When at the intersection of Highway 12, Sunset Avenue (leading north) and Grizzly Island Road (leading south): turn south on the latter road and head south for two and a half miles to the ranch entrance (picture above) on your right, from where a gravel driveway leads to the ranch buildings.
To get to the Hwy 12 intersection from Interstate 80 in Fairfield, take the Hwy 12 East exit toward Rio Vista/Suisun City and proceed for approximately three miles.

More to explore
[1] Solano Land Trust: Rush Ranch Open Space [solanolandtrust.org/RushRanch.aspx].
[2] San Francisco Bay - National Estuarine Research Reserve: Rush Ranch [www.sfbaynerr.org/visit/rush-ranch].
[3] Trailhiker: Rush Ranch Open Space - Marsh and South Pasture Trail [trailhiker.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/rush-ranch-open-space-marsh-and-south-pasture-trails/].

1 comment:

DW Davis said...

Rush Ranch sounds spectacular. Thank you for this informative article about all its wonders.