Free events at lake Solano provide an education in ecology

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For a reservoir that is under two miles long, Lake Solano is teeming with avian and aquatic life.

Many elements of Lake Solano’s flora and fauna were visible during a free docent-led canoe tour on Saturday, July 27. The tour was hosted by the Putah Creek Council, a local non-profit that offers free nature events throughout the year.

Visitors met at Lake Solano Park’s dock early the morning of a day that the mercury climbed up over 105 degrees. They left the dock and paddled downstream to the Putah Diversion Dam, where Lake Solano once again becomes Putah Creek.

Only 25 percent of the water stored in Lake Solano will continue beyond the diversion dam, past Winters and Davis and ultimately into the Sacramento River. Of the remaining 75 percent, the majority goes to agricultural usage. The water also serves regional industrial facilities, like Genentech Inc. and the Budweiser factory in Fairfield.

Before the water hits that diversion dam, it supports an ecosystem of native and invasive species vying for space.

Native plants like tule and cattail grow in the shallow waters along the banks of Lake Solano. They provide erosion control and a multitude of uses to the local wildlife. Those who canoed down the lake on Saturday morning saw blue herons and kingfishers hunting while perched among the cattails. A mother and her seven ducklings filed into the tule, disappearing from view completely.

The false bamboo, which towers above the tule and cattails, has a different, more destructive role. While it may serve as shade and coverage for local fauna, it intensifies soil erosion. Much like the Himilayan blackberry plants that also dot the banks of Lake Solano, it is an invasive species.

Ironically, false bamboo was actually introduced as a way to fight bank erosion. It grows quickly and easily, propagating from rhizomes. Rhizomes are plant structures capable of spreading out underground to create the root system of a “new” plant. Through this process a small piece of root can sprout a cluster of towering false bamboo plants, making this invasive species almost impossible to irradiate.

As the canoers traveled further downstream they saw osprey perched high in the trees, identifiable by their white heads and black “Lone Ranger” bands across their eyes. Cormorants and Canada geese paddled in the shallows beneath the surface turtles darted in and out of the darkness provided by the aquatic plants.

The next free docent-led canoe tour will be held on Sunday, Aug. 25. The Putah Creek Council hosts these tours and similar nature-based events throughout the year. The only cost to attend the Lake Solano events is the park’s $6 parking fee.

Registration is required. Go to putahcreekcouncil.org/calendar to sign up for a canoe tour or to learn about the other free events offered by the Putah Creek Council.

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