Putah Creek Parkway

This former creek channel is now a thriving greenbelt that benefits people, wildlife, and the environment.

Wildlife Corridor

Native birds, insects, and other wildlife continue to live and migrate along the historic creek channel where native trees and plants still grow.

Here, community volunteers have planted native grasses, shrubs, and trees to enhance habitat for birds and other wildlife. Wildflowers planted along the bike path provide nectar and pollen for native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

River of Bicycles

A path system follows the historic Putah Creek channel for most of its length through Davis and UC Davis. Have you explored it?

Even underpasses under the freeway and railroad tracks follow the creek’s old route. The flow of bicyclists and pedestrians along this corridor echo the former movement of the creek’s water.

Water Quality Protection

On rainy days, pipes gush like fountains, and the channel here fills with temporary ponds that nourish moisture-loving sedges and rushes.

Rain water runoff from paved streets and parking lots drains into this channel during storms, carrying with it heavy metals, sediments, and other pollutants. As water percolates into the ground, the plants and soil filter pollutants and the groundwater aquifer is slowly replenished.


Urban Greening Project

Starting in 2011, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, the City of Davis and other partners developed a series of urban greening improvements in this area, including:

  • Restoring local native plants to the Putah Creek Parkway for wildlife habitat
  • Reconfiguring bike and pedestrian paths to improve safety, access, and circulation
  • Creating the Arboretum GATEway Garden with local native plants, storm water management features, educational signage, and a sculptural gateway
  • Installing green parking lot retrofits at Davis Commons to increase storm water infiltration
     

Project Partners

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden
City of Davis
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Tree Davis
Community Built Association
Putah Creek Council
Nishi Gateway LLC
Dowling Properties

Project Funders

California Prop. 84 Urban Greening Grant Program
City of Davis
Pacific Gas and Electric Company


From Waterway to Parkway

The north fork of Putah Creek used to flow here, but now it’s a dry channel. What happened?
 

1870s

Davis residents used horse-drawn scrapers to divert the creek south of Davis and prevent periodic flooding in heavy winter flows. Despite these efforts, periodic flooding continued for decades.

1939

A major flood caused considerable damage to the early UC Davis campus and small town of Davis.

1948

The Army Corps of Engineers permanently sealed off the north fork of Putah Creek and diverted the water to the south fork to prevent future flooding, creating a dry channel.

2003

The railroad under-crossing for the Putah Creek Parkway bike path was constructed, creating a safe link between Downtown Davis, the UC Davis Campus, and South Davis. The concrete tunnel was cast in segments before installation.

2014

Community volunteers started working to restore native plants to the Putah Creek Parkway in partnership with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, the City of Davis, the Yolo County Resource Conservation District, and Tree Davis.

 

 Where did the flow go?

To protect the Davis area from flooding, the north fork of Putah Creek was dammed and the water diverted to the south fork. On the UC Davis campus, the Arboretum Waterway was dammed at both ends to form a pond. In the city of Davis, the historic north fork channel along the Putah Creek Parkway fills with urban rain water runoff during winter storms, but stays dry in the summer.

Where can I visit the flowing creek?

City of Davis South Fork Preserve
The Putah Creek Parkway and South Fork Preserve are part of the taxpayer-funded City of Davis Open Space Program. Visit cityofdavis.org for more information about open space areas you can visit in and around Davis.

UC Davis Putah Creek Riparian Reserve
Visit putahcreek.ucdavis.edu to learn more.