Thursday, April 14, 2016

Black Canyon Bridge

I recently posted photos of a Brewer's Sparrow and a Black-chinned Sparrow on Black Canyon Road. These add to the little trip report/site guide last spring of Birds of Black Canyon Road, Ramona.

From Hwy 78 east out of Ramona, turn north on Magnolia Avenue. After a mile or so this becomes Black Canyon Road. This road is well-maintained gravel, but one-lane wide in places. Heed the signs that say "use horn at one-lane curves.”

The road travels through extensive, but low and sparse south-facing chaparral, climbing gradually. At the low summit, the chaparral becomes denser with more brush and small trees as it descends northward toward the Santa Ysebel Creek below. For passenger vehicles that aren't too low you can pull off the road and park here for decent birding.

Another mile-and-a-half or more and 7.3 miles from Hwy 78 you reach Black Canyon Bridge. This is great riparian habitat with lots of birds. There are some pull-offs to park and bird this area before crossing over the bridge. A new bridge in 2010 replaced the structurally deficient 1913 bridge at the intersection of Black Canyon Rd and Sutherlin Dam Rd.

Black Canyon Bridge
Black Canyon Bridge, old and new.
I don't know much about historic bridges. This one is built on the Thomas Three-Hinge System as designed by William Thomas. I think I read that the largest span is 60 feet and the whole bridge is about 150 feet in length. But walking over this bridge gives good birding views at tree-top level for those trees growing 30 feet below in the creek bottom. And for at least the past two years, and perhaps the past 103 years, Canyon Wrens have nested under this bridge.

Canyon Wren nesting under the Black Canyon Bridge
Canyon Wren carrying food under the Black Canyon Bridge, Ramona, California. March 27, 2016. Greg Gillson.
Just across the bridge is a rough road down to the former Black Canyon Campground, Cleveland National Forest. The campground was closed about 30 years ago, evidently to curb the wild parties and increasing crime. The campground is right on the Santa Ysabel Creek and there are supposed to be waterfalls. I think I'll walk down there the next time I visit.

On my previous visit I passed by the bridge (without crossing over it) and took the Sutherlin Dam Road a couple of miles to Lake Sutherlin and back into Ramona. On this most recent visit I drove north across the new bridge and headed up past the Mesa Grande Reservation and came out at Lake Henshaw--a longer, but enjoyable ride.