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, old and new.|
|Canyon Wren carrying food under the Black Canyon Bridge, Ramona, California. March 27, 2016. Greg Gillson.|
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.