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Big Break Regional Shoreline Exploration

The water flowing past Big Break Regional Shoreline via the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers drains 1/2 of California.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 3.6 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview :  Big Break Regional Shoreline is a part of the great 1,680-square-mile San Francisco/San Joaquin Delta estuary in Northern California. ... more »

Tips:  Getting There
From Highway 4 in Oakley, go north on Big Break Road. Take the first right just past Vintage Parkway and follow the road... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Culvert

Not long ago, this culvert was thick with blackberries. To bring it back to a wetland state, the channel was graded, letting water in from the delta. Shorebirds found the wetland the very next day. Now visitors see tule and cattails and even small fish. A lesson that sometimes simple, low budget restorations can do the trick; as long as they open ... More

2. Beavers, Keep Out

Short fences around cottonwood trees keep them from falling victim to the park's beavers.

A good look at some beaver damage. If they were to chew the bark around the entire girth of the tree, the tree would die--if it hadn't already been knocked over and used to build a beaver den.

3. First Steps

The trail at Big Break welcomes bikes and wheelchairs as well as feet. Several miles down the road, it connects with other paved East Bay Regional Park trails, making it a nice starting point for a day's bicycle journey as well as a walk along the delta.

4. Green Delta

A pier over the delta provides a fine fishing and birding spot. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Sierras. Watch the birds as they land and you'll notice that they avoid landing on the algae. To a shore bird, the algae appears from above to be a land, not water, and therefore diminishes the bird's potential habitat.

The algae floating ... More

5. The Buzz About Mosquitoes

Naturalist Mike Moran explains that the bias against mosquitoes is purely human, as many other members of the Delta ecosystem relish them. (video)

A cloud of buzzing mosquitoes hovers over the water near the shore.

6. Sedges Have Edges...

With all these different plants waving in the marshy wind, how can you tell which is which? In this video, Naturalist Mike Moran rhymes his way to plant identification.

A bit of hands-on study showing what Naturalist Mike Moran means when he says "Sedges have edges, and rushes are round. Grasses are hollow from the tip to the ground."

A cross... More

7. Unexpected Birding Hotspot

Big Break is a birder's paradise, with over 200 species throughout the year. On a good day along this trail, a skilled birder can probably find between 30 and 60 species in a couple of hours. (video)

The wastewater treatment plant provides a haven for birds at Big Break. The open water attracts shorebirds and the fencing keeps neighbors' pets away.... More

8. Field of Yerba Mansa

Despite its scientific name (Anemopsis californica), yerba mansa is native to the American southwest, primarily in New Mexico. It now grows well in wet, marshy areas like the Delta. Though there is no documentation of it having a sedative effect, it is sold as a tincture similar to echinacea by some herbal remedy companies.

Don't be fooled: the... More

9. Otter Scat Dissection

Carnivorous otters making pit stops as they cross the road leave behind evidence of what they ate for dinner. (video)

White smudges along the darker gray asphalt mark a freeway where otters cross from one side of the road to the other. Mud and musk from their bellies gets dragged across the roadway, showing their path. They stop occasionally to... More

10. Dragonfly

A varieagated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum) finds respite on a spent yerba mansa blossom.

11. Walnut Tree Surprises

Fallen nuts gathered along the trail can become a simple art project. (video)

Hikers can keep an eye out for these small, dark nuts on the ground. They are from the California black walnut tree (Juglans californica), and while not grown commercially for human consumption, they are an important source of food for wildlife.

Before they fall from the... More