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Nature Logs

From Cañada Larga to Arroyo Verde Park

The hillside backdrop to the historic City of San Buenaventura (Ventura) abounds with delightful natural treasures. The majority of these precious open space lands are still in private ownership, but since the hillsides are still open space wild lands, almost 200 species of bird, mammal and plant species are able to thrive. Some of these species are considered rare by the State of California. This backdrop also boasts the crown jewels of the Ventura hillsides, TWO TREES, which are the great Australian forest tree, Eucalyptus Globulus. Over the past 150 years these trees were commonly used by California ranchers as windbreaks bordering agricultural fields.

Some of the best bird watching in Ventura County is along Canada Larga Road, just off Highway 33 north of Ventura. This two lane country road is bordered on both sides by the historic Spanish Rancho Canada Larga y Verde Larga (large green canyon), commonly known as Rancho Canada Larga. Park your car alongside this rural byway, and as you walk along Canada Larga Road you will notice at least a half dozen species of hawks, several falcon species, and turkey vultures soaring overhead. Small songbirds abound in great numbers. Coveys of quail scurrying about and the early morning calls of field doves and whippoorwills make an early start to this daytrip most rewarding. Full moon nights bring out several species of the kings of the night skies, the owls. Canada Larga is even close enough to town to allow for a great bike trip as well. Just bike up Ventura Avenue until you reach the access road to Canada Larga. Closer to town one can explore Grant Park above Ventura City Hall. The views from this hillside preserve are spectacular. If one tires of viewing the Santa Barbara channel, offshore islands, upper Ventura River watershed, western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains and downtown Ventura, there is much to explore in the grassy fields above the historic cross. After an early rain, new sprouts of wild mustard emerge. Their yellow flowers dominate open space lands in our area when in full bloom during the spring. I have spotted several small clumps of native violas (commonly called Johnny Jump-ups) in the past. Several species of native sages are growing in this area as well. Continuing along Poli Street as it turns into Foothill Road, one passes an historic Tamarisk grove on the hillside property just north of Dorothy Avenue. Our journey along Foothill Road takes us to the "gem" of Ventura city parks, Arroyo Verde Park. With its open space hiking trails and ridgeline trail, this park also offers great views on a clear day. The Arroyo Verde trails take us close to such wonderful native shrubs as the Toyon (aka Christmas Berry or California Holly), noted at this time of year for it brilliant red berries, wild sage species, small willow saplings, several plantings of blue flowered (in spring) Ceanothus (California lilac), silver leafed Artemisia (Common Wormwood or Mugwort) and the drought tolerant Rhus (Poison Oak and Sumac) shrub groves. This park is also a birdwatchers’ paradise. It is also not uncommon to see small mammals running across the trail ahead. The park is also home to one of Southern California’s rarest cat species, the mountain lion. Several are spotted at various times of the year. Next time we will explore the upper reaches of Wheeler Canyon and on up to Sulphur Mountain (between Ventura and Santa Paula).