Photo: Stuart Allen's Lake Berryessa Line

The Putah-Cache Bioregion Project:

Putah-Cache Circumdrive


Who | What | Where | Publications

Robert Thayer and David Robertson (last revised 3/5/97)

The circumdrive is

  1. a 225 mile auto (or bike!) tour of the Putah-Cache bioregion
  2. a compendium of cultural and ecological information on the watershed, with everything from Native American lifeways to local geology to recommendations on where to get good pancakes.

  Circumdrive sections--easier to navigate on the web than the entire circumdrive.


Do you know where you are? How much do you know about the region where you live? Every one of us lives within a watershed (or more correctly, a drainage basin) of some sort. If you live in or near Woodland, Davis, Winters, West Sacramento, Lake Berryessa, Middletown, Hidden Valley, Cobb Mountain, Loch Lomond, Lower Lake, Clear Lake, or Capay Valley, the chances are you live in the watershed or basin area of either Putah Creek or Cache Creek. Watersheds are the circulatory systems of our environment, yet we often know little about them. Upstream folks may not know where their water goes, and downstream people may not know where their water comes from, yet we share the same basins. Yet, just as blood vessels nourish the human body, a watershed system nourishes the land and all its life systems. We owe a lot to our watersheds, and we ought to get to know them.

In today's globalizing world of electronic communication and mass consumer culture, it is easy to lose sight of our surroundings. All over North America, people have begun to assemble in volunteer groups on behalf of their local watersheds, mountain ranges, prairies, or forests. Knowing and identifying with one's watershed offers a new glimpse of how to be a community citizen of the natural world, not just of some abstract political unit or consumer category. Grass roots organizations and resource agencies alike are beginning to subscribe to a bioregional approach to locating ourselves on earth and managing our relationship with the environment. Much as we might like to, it is impossible to take care of the entire earth all at once. We have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is likely to be in our home bioregion, or "life-place"—the unique assemblage of geology, landform, watershed, climate, and communities of plants, animals and humans. California has over a dozen unique bioregions, and both grassroots organizations and governmental agencies now recognize the advantages of a "bioregional" approach to planning, conservation, and lifestyle. Awareness of one's bioregion need not be constrained to political, racial, economic, cultural, age, or gender lines. Bioregional awareness—the deeper knowledge of one's home life-place—benefits all of us without discriminating.

Putah Creek and Cache Creek can be considered "sibling" creeks; their headwaters both originate in the Mayacmas Mountains of the inner coastal ranges of northern California. Their flows terminate within ten miles of each other in the Yolo Bypass west of Sacramento. Putah and Cache Creeks form the most dominant watersheds in the western Sacramento Valley Bioregion, the next closest major watershed being Stoney Creek, which flows into the Sacramento River about 75 miles to the north. Neither Putah Creek nor Cache Creek would be considered among the State's more spectacular watersheds, but they have hidden beauty and demonstrate many of the potentials and limits of life in California.

We can learn a lot from Putah and Cache Creek about where we are and how best to live here. But first, we must know where we are. This guided tour of the Putah and Cache Creeks basins is intended to do just that—to help you know more about your place on earth.

Many ancient peoples practiced forms of ritual travel, periodically touring their home territory and its sacred places on foot or by horseback, teaching their young about the earth and preserving their culture. Aboriginal Australian peoples relied on highly ritualized "walkabouts", stopping at various spots to sing the songs of the place, which for them, literally renewed their world. The Yamabushi of Japan, an ancient Buddhist sect, circumambulated their sacred mountains clockwise, stopping to chant at certain places.

In our tour of the Putah Creek and Cache Creek watersheds, we have acknowledged the dominance of the automobile in our culture and have organized a clockwise tour of twenty-five stations, varying from mere "whistle stops" to hour-long hikes away from the car. These stops aim at a mixture of informative experience, ranging from geography, geological origins, landform, archaeology, native people's history, flora, fauna, hydrology, popular culture, agriculture, recreation, tourism, and local economic activity. This booklet is intended to complement the "real time" activities at the various stops and to provide commentary about the environments and places one may pass through while on the tour.

For convenience (since the authors are Davis Professors), we have begun the tour at the University of California at Davis, proceeding up the Putah watershed and down the Cache watershed, in a clockwise direction. However, residents from any part of either watershed can access the prescribed route at the nearest point, proceeding around the circuit until arriving back from where they began.

It is our intention that this tour will become at least an annual (if not a more frequent) ritual, and that it will evolve and change with time, as all rituals do. We have organized it because of our interest and affection for this place, and because we feel these kinds of experiences fill an obvious void in our education about the world. We hope you find the tour informative, enjoyable, and memorable!

Putah Creek, UC Davis to Lake Berryessa
Putah to Cache, Litto's Hubcap Ranch to Tule Elk Reserve
Cache Creek, Capay Valley to Yolo Basin

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