Kinevan Road, San Marcos Pass

San Marcos Pass is one of the highest rainfall areas in the county during winter rains. As the pressure between air molecules decreases as they move up and over the mountain, the air cools and water vapor carried along condenses and falls more abundantly at higher elevations. One of just three routes out of Santa Barbara that cross the Santa Ynez Mountains, San Marcos Pass and old San Marcos Pass Road can be hit hard during major storms, as shown in the photos in the report below – click on image to access report.


And, Kinevan Road, just off San Marcos Pass Road, is one of the wetter locations in the San Marcos Pass area. Kinevan Road runs along the edge of the San Jose Creek. San Jose Creek then makes its way down the Santa Ynez mountains towards Goleta, before entering the Pacific Ocean. To lessen the flooding in Goleta caused by overflowing banks in heavy rain years, the lower portion of San Jose creek has seen significant construction in the last few years as it was widened to handle major storms. Heavy rain events affect areas at the source, middle and end of creek, as it flows from the mountains to the oceans.

Far away from the noisy construction, up along the relatively quiet narrow Kinevan Road at the top of the Pass, there was much vegetation to see and photograph. Moist soils support many trees, and there were at least ten native species along Kinevan Road – together with mosses, liverworts, ferns and other moisture loving-plants. Deciduous trees such as Bigleaf Maple and Sycamore had dropped most of their leaves, and Kinevan Road was edged with red and gold leaf litter.

Big-leaf Maple leaves mostly fallen.

Big-leaf Maple on a bed of Sycamore leaves.

For the most part, the Santa Ynez mountains are blanketed with chaparral plants, except for wetland areas. The vegetation difference between these areas can be quite distinct, as was the case when walking from the chaparral-clad turn-off to Kinevan Road toward the riverine area of Kinevan Road.

The Santa Ynez Mountain ridge is also somewhat of a dividing line for some species of fauna and flora. After driving down Stagecoach Road after the outing, I photographed Sugarbush on the north-facing slopes. When returning to Santa Barbara via old San Marcos Pass Road, Lemonadeberry was photographed on south-facing slopes. These two shrubs, similar in appearance, can be distinguished via leaf shape. Sugarbush has thinner, longer, curved leaves, shaped much like a sugar scoop; Lemonadeberry has flat, thick leaves. Lemonadeberry grows mostly south of the Santa Ynez Mountains ridge, as does Bigpod Ceanothus. Bigpod Ceanothus and possibly Lemonadeberry, should start flowering in the next month or so.

Sugar Bush on Stagecoach Road, Lemonadeberry on Old San Marcos Pass Road – 2013/11/23.

The trip discussion was not without geology information; this time about the Coldwater Sandstone formation. The name, “Coldwater”, comes from the Coldwater Canyon near Fillmore where the sandstone geology unit was first described. This sandstone formation was then mapped 40 miles from Fillmore into the Santa Ynez Mountains. From Wikipedia: “Being exceptionally resistant to erosion, outcrops of the Coldwater form some of the most dramatic terrain on the south slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains, with immense white sculpted slabs forming peaks, hogback ridges, and sheer cliff faces.[3][4]”.

These peaks were visually described with Google landsat images in a blog about a geology field trip in 2012. Clicking on any of the images, opens a slideshow of larger images. I tried to recreate slide 7 of 9, in Google Earth, but failed.

BYTEMAPS – Peaks and Valleys (Sandstone and Shale)

No photo slideshow this time – need to investigate using something different than Flickr – and I have tons of stuff on my plate until the end of the year. Thanks to the SYVNHM leaders Tim and Larry, Laura,  the carpoolers and everyone else.

Corrections are always welcomed.

Lower Santa Ynez River Natural History

My favorite route when traveling from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos, is via Alisal Road. When crossing the bridge over the Santa Ynez River, as Alisal Road heads into Solvang, I have often seen birds in the water below, but have never gone down to observe them.

On Saturday, I drove along Alisal Road once again in the morning, and was taken by the fauna activity near Nojoqui Park. It was quite magical – two groups of Wild Turkeys were seen some distance apart, deer were grazing on both sides of the road, and birds on the road were looking for seeds. I could not stop for photos, as I was on the way to an outing by SYVNHS along the Santa Ynez River near the bridge over which I had driven many times. (Click on any of the images for a larger version.)

Santa Ynez River

After parking on Fjord Drive, the group led by Fred and Tim walked down to the banks of the Santa Ynez River. Riverine areas are wonderful for trees (often very tall) and this area did not disappoint. We were treated to a lesson on the difference between Fremont and Black Cottonwoods, because both grow in the area. There was very little water in the river – some had recently been released into this lower area of the Santa Ynez River from Bradbury Dam, but the riverbed was for the most part very dry.

Fremont CottonwoodBlack Cottonwood
Fremont Cottonwood and Black Cottonwood

The leaves of Sycamores and the Fremont Cottonwoods were beginning to show orange-yellow fall colors, as were some of the Walnut trees and Arroyo Willows. The Black Cottonwoods will turn bright yellow in a few weeks, some of which should also be seen in much splendor near Nojoqui Park. Fluffy seeds of Coyote Bush and Scale Broom caught the rays of the low-angled sun, ready for dispersal with the next strong winds.

SycamoreCalifornia Walnut
Sycamore and Walnut

One of the highlights of Fall is when the pale pink flowers of California Buckwheat turn to dark red; the color is striking against the otherwise monotone dried grass. California Buckwheat with dark red flowers was seen along the banks of the river. Some of them also had leaves that had turned red, something I had not noticed before. Poison oak was sporting bright red leaves, later to wither and fall.

California BuckwheatCalifornia Buckwheat
California Buckwheat

In the dry ground, late-flowering Long-stemmed Buckwheat made a straggly appearance. In the gravelly soil of the dry river bed creek, Twiggy Wreath Plant seemed to have found enough moisture for somewhat more than twenty plants to have a scattering of pink and pale-pink flowers.

Long-stemmed BuckwheatTwiggy Wreath Plant
Long-stemmed Buckwheat and Twiggy Wreath Plant

Butterflies here and there were scavenging sustenance from the few remaining flowers. Quite a few Common Buckeye were seen, as were several of one of the Vanessa species, some of which were feeding on Mule Fat. One of the flowers of a Twiggy Wreath Plant provided nectar for a Skipper of some sort while I was taking photos. The Skipper did not remain long enough for a decent shot.

Chestnut-backed ChickadeeTownsend's Warbler
Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Townsend’s Warbler

The variety of birds in the river was very small; probably because water had just been released. A few birds were photographed in the trees along the side of the river. On returning via Alisal Road, all fauna activity seemed to have ceased in the hot midday sun. I will have to try an early morning trip another time, when on my own time.

From Wikipedia
“The Santa Ynez River is one of the largest rivers on the Central Coast of California. It is 92 miles (148 km) long,[3] flowing from east to west through the Santa Ynez Valley, reaching the Pacific Ocean at Surf, near Vandenberg Air Force Base and the city of Lompoc.

The river drains the north slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the south slope of the San Rafael Mountains, as well as much of the southern half of Santa Barbara County. Its drainage basin is 896 square miles (2,320 km2) in area.[4] The river’s flow is highly variable. It usually dries up almost completely in the summer, but can become a raging torrent in the winter.”

I have been having some trouble with the Flickr slideshows (Shockwave Flash crash).
Click here to see the individual photos in the slideshow.


Note – on More Mesa, three distinct Black Cottonwood groves have been discovered by Valerie and Donley Olson. The behavior of the cottonwoods is to be monitored and documented as the seasons change, with phenology reports to Budburst. See November 2013 News.

The Sound of Cottonwoods (Populus fremontii)

Corrections are always welcomed.