Round Valley

The secluded meadows of Round Valley Regional Preserve lie just a few miles south of Brentwood, California. In this 15-part audio tour, you’ll learn about the grassland’s history and the rich habitat it provides for golden eagles, kit foxes, and red-legged frogs. Sponsored by Save Mount Diablo & Thomas J. Long Foundation, 2012. Featuring Seth Adams, Robert Doyle, Scott Hein, and Brian Kruse. Music from Local Joe by Phil Heywood.

Learn about the preserve from local resident Brian Kruse, East Bay Regional Park District General Manager Robert Doyle, naturalist and photographer Scott Hein, and Save Mount Diablo Land Programs director Seth Adams.
Music: “Backwater” by Phil Heywood. Topics: Overview of 15-segment tour. Speakers: Brian Kruse, Seth Adams. Photos: aerials of Round Valley in springtime (2), Bob Walker, Oakland Museum collection; larkspur, © Barry Breckling; American badger, Gary M. Stolz/USFWS; mountain lion, © iStockphoto.com/Joshua Haviv; Lewis’s woodpecker, courtesy www.naturespicsonline.com; roadrunner, © George Phillips; phainopepla, © Berichard/Creative Commons.

Take your pick: you can play in Marsh Creek, try the up-and-down 5-mile-long Hardy Canyon Loop or the easier 6-mile-long Valley Loop. Or you can do all three for a total of 8 miles.
Topics: Three ways to explore: Marsh Creek, Hardy Canyon Loop, Valley Loop; cattle trails, bike rules, horse rules, dog rules. Speakers: Scott Hein, Seth Adams. Sounds: meadowlarks

Named after the county’s first U.S. settler, John Marsh, Marsh Creek is the second longest, least disturbed waterway in the area. Once it had steelhead and sustained mammoth oaks, as described here by 19th century explorer William Brewer.
Music: “Waubonsie” by Phil Heywood. Topics: rock wren, Marsh Creek geography, hydrology, and conservation; John Marsh; Marsh Creek State Park. Speaker: Seth Adams, Carl Magruder (as William Brewer). Sound: rock wren. Photos: Marsh Creek upper section, Bob Walker, Oakland Museum collection; Marsh Creek floodwaters, © George Phillips; Marsh Creek Reservoir, © Seth Adams; steelhead drawing, U.S. Printing Office; lower Marsh Creek, courtesy Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed; salmon drawing, U.S. Printing Office; John Marsh, Contra Costa Historical Society; William Brewer (2), Yale University Press; Marsh Creek State Park aerial, © Stephen Joseph; Marsh home, Contra Costa Historical Society

Some consider them pests, but ground squirrels are a “keystone” species. Why? They provide a foundation of food and shelter for many other animals. 
Topics: ground squirrels, rattlesnakes, gopher snakes. Speakers: Seth Adams, Robert Doyle. Photos: red-tailed hawk, © Joe Oliver; infrared photos by Aaron Rundus from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; last two ground squirrels, courtesy www.naturepicsonline.com. 

What makes this uphill trek worth the workout? Habitat diversity.  
Topics: habitat crossroads, biodiversity, road runner, phainopepla, blue oak woodlands, rare larkspur, Roger Epperson and the orange rattlesnake. Speakers: Seth Adams, Scott Hein. Sounds: rattlesnake. Photos: roadrunner, © George Phillips; phainopepla, © Berichard/Creative Commons; slope of blue oaks, Bob Walker, Oakland Museum collection; larkspur (2), © Barry Breckling.

Round Valley is one of the best places in the world to see golden eagles.
Speakers: Scott Hein, Seth Adams. Sounds: golden eagle. Photos: opener, juvenile golden eagle, © Joe Oliver; eagle perched, courtesy www.naturepicsonline.com; eagle soaring, Chuck Abbe, Creative Commons; jackrabbit, Lindsay Wildlife Museum; eagle head, © Richard Bartz, Creative Commons; winter vista from Cakebread Ranch to Alamont Pass, © George Phillips.

From an altitude of 1,100 feet, enjoy the sweeping views of Round Valley and way, way beyond.
Music: “Lighten Up” by Phil Heywood. Topics: views, parks with connections, Hulet Hornbeck, parallel ridges where dump wars started. Speakers: Seth Adams, Robert Doyle. Photos: Hulet Hornbeck, © David Ogden.

An out-of-work weaver who immigrated from England in 1860, Robert Cakebread, mined coal, herded sheep, and raised a family that made history in the Round Valley area. 
  Music: “Local Joe” by Phil Heywood. Topics: Gold Rush, coal mining, Cakebread’s “dustup” with his partner, ranching, house on Marsh Creek, outdoor kitchen. Speaker: Brian Kruse. Photo: Cakebread Ranch, © George Phillips.

In the 1980s, Contra Costa County decided that Round Valley was a good place for a garbage dump. How Brian Kruse and Robert Doyle helped bury that plan. 
Music: “Zulu Bob” by Phil Heywood. Topics: Cakebread and Foskett Canyons proposed for landfill, birth of Marsh Creek Preservation Association, Jim Murphy and Robert Doyle meet, park district buys an option, Measure AA passes. Speakers: Brian Kruse, Robert Doyle
Photo: Jim Murphy, by Bob Walker, Oakland Museum Collection.

You’re about to step into an ocean of grass that supports eagles, hawks, coyotes, and mountain lions.
Music: “Home Range” by Phil Heywood. Topics: Thomas Murphy, farming history, grassland’s wildlife value, long-billed curlews, bluebirds, grazing, solar pumps, wild oats and rye, medusa head. Speakers: Seth Adams, Scott Hein, Robert Doyle. Sounds: cows and meadowlarks. Photos: long-billed curlew, Robert Burton/USFWS

Round Valley Creek sometimes makes a comeback even before rains arrive in the fall.
Speaker: Seth Adams. Topic: why creek can start flowing before first rains. Sounds: meadowlarks and ground squirrels; creek.

Think back to the latter half of the 18th century, when the Spanish first encountered the indigenous people here.
Music: “Lighten Up” by Phil Heywood. Topics: Enclosed meadows, native peoples, Ithuriel’s spear and other “Indian potatoes,” chia, red maids, mortars and pestles.
Speakers: Robert Doyle. Sounds: birds in a valley oak. Photos: Round Valley aerial, Bob Walker, Oakland Museum collection; linguistic map East Bay tribal territories, East Bay Regional Park District, source Randall Milliken.

An overnight stay gives you a good chance of seeing wildlife—maybe even the East Bay’s rarest mammal, the San Joaquin kit fox.
Music: “Backwater” by Phil Heywood. Topics: kit foxes, Roger Epperson, building the camp, what it offers. Speakers: Robert Doyle, Seth Adams, Scott Hein.
Photos: San Joaquin kit fox (first 3), B. “Moose” Peterson/USFWS.

Where the canyon narrows, you’ll see wild rose bushes and life-giving water, even in the dry season.

Music: “Year of the Rooster” by Phil Heywood. Topics: year-round water, gravity and wildlife corridors, coyotes, rattlesnakes, red-legged frogs, tiger salamanders, best route to staging area. Speakers: Seth Adams, Scott Hein. Photos: tiger salamander, © Gary Nafis.

While the preserve’s popularity is growing, its sights and sounds haven’t changed much since the days of rancher Jim Murphy.
Music: “Local Joe” by Phil Heywood. Topics: acquiring pieces of the park, staging area leased from Cowell Foundation, fast track to find defenders, other threats nearby, Brian Kruse on recent changes. Speakers: Seth Adams, Brian Kruse. Photo: aerial of valley, Bob Walker, Oakland Museum collection.

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