Schoolhouse Creek

The outfall of Schoolhouse Creek at low tide

Schoolhouse Creek pours freshwater in season into the southeast corner of the North Basin, making the Basin an estuary.  The creek once ran in the open air, like a normal creek, but as Berkeley got developed, builders diverted it, forced it into culverts, and paved over its banks — as with every other creek in the City.  You should read the excellent history of the creek written in 2002 by Rebecca Sutton.  It’s a lens for viewing the history of Berkeley. 

At high tide, you can’t see the outfall of the creek at all and you wouldn’t know it was there.  At low tide, a big round culvert emerges, and in a really low tide, such as in the photo to the left, you can see the meandering channel that the creek has cut in the tidal mudflat. 

Just north of the creek’s outfall lies a bit of a gravelly beach strewn with bits of broken glass and porcelain.  “Glass Beach” is the remainder of a dump that a glass and pottery company left, decades ago.  

“Glass Beach” just north of Schoolhouse Creek outfall

The mix of freshwater and saltwater plus the beach and the mud form a magnet for birds at low tide.  Here I’ve seen Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Mallard, Black-necked Stilt, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Long-billed Curlew, Whimbrel, Yellowlegs, Marbled Godwit, Turnstone and various Sandpipers, along with Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Avocet, and others I’ve forgotten. 

Young Snowy Egrets in the Schoolhouse Creek channel at low tide

The dry land area above the creek to the north (“North Basin Strip”) is currently a latter-day wilderness, meaning a former garbage dump covered with dirt and some trees, bushes, and grasses, and otherwise undeveloped  A dirt and gravel trail can take you further north to the Gilman Street playing fields and beyond that, to the horse racing track. 

A volunteer organization, Friends of 5 Creeks, has done years of detail work pulling invasive weeds and planting beautiful natives along the northern shore of this creek, as well as others. 

Years of detail work by volunteers have beautified the shore above Schoolhouse Creek


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