Walking the Watsonville Sloughs

It was a gorgeous early afternoon, and, while I wanted to get some work done in the garden, I also wanted to take some time for a walk. The solution: a quick urban hike at the Watsonville sloughs.

First, let me say that I love that we have sloughs in California. A slough is defined as marshy or reedy pool, pond, inlet, backwater, or the like. Back east, we called these things a marsh. Calling a marsh a slough always makes me think of Pilgrim’s Progress, and trudging through the Slough of Despond, and therefore entertains me greatly.

And Watsonville is cut through with sloughs. We have Watsonville Slough, Struve Slough, Harkins Slough, and Gallighan Slough, while just down the road a ways is the larger Elkhorn Slough. Today’s walk took me around Struve Slough.

I started my walk at the small nature center that’s hidden behind the giant complex of stores that includes Ross and Target, on Harkins Slough Road. A quick duck through a walkway under the road took me directly to the path that borders the slough. Even though most of the slough and its pathways are bordered by large complexes of new houses or light industry, the sounds of city life immediately disappeared, and (except for the occasional small plane heading for Watsonville airport) all I could hear was the wind in the reeds and the birds rustling in the undergrowth.

As I approached Ohlone Parkway, I saw two large tubes which I assumed were for drainage. No! They were built to assist small animals in crossing the road.
Tubes for animal crossing

Closer to the pipes. You can see the houses along the path. Also, speaking of pilgrims, note that one could interpret the pattern on the trash can as scallop shells, the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. (You know I just had to go there…)
Three points in one photo

The paths are well-maintained and well marked, with maps posted at each junction.
The path

Some late berries along the way.
Late blackberries

To cross the slough, I had to climb up to the street. Another lovely Watsonville bridge! The sign indicates which slough, and the end post is decorated with a bas-relief of a frog.
Slough sign and art

Plus each upright along the bridge had either a heron or a cat-tail relief.
Heron bas-relief

Reeds and open water. There were some birds congregating there, mostly Canada geese and coots.
Reeds and open water

I had hoped to circumnavigate the slough. The maps posted along the path indicated that this was possible, but no. The maps indicate a bridge or some crossing where I’m pointing, but there’s nothing there. I later found that the printed maps available at the nature center say that this is a proposed pathway. Ah well. I prefer a loop track, but backtracking is fine, too.
No such path

On the way back, I saw these seeds about to take off.
Seeds about to fly off

And Faust was here! I kept an eye out for him, and for Mephistopheles as well.
Faust writes graffitti

Perhaps this large spider is Mephistopheles in disguise???
Large hairy spider

And back again to the nature center, which is just around the corner from this last bit of slough. All told, this was about an hour’s walk. It’s a lovely getaway right in the middle of commercial Watsonville, well worth exploring. For the less adventuresome, the nature center gives guided walks at 1:30 each Saturday and Sunday.
A lovely bit of slough

Author: Melissa

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