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Taking in a Slice of Nature: Visiting Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area
By Chamois Andersen
Imagine a slender slice of nature: A creek babbles beneath a black walnut tree, a black-tailed deer bounds across the grassy hillside, a kingfisher searches for lunch. The diverse and rugged scenery of Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area includes steep brush covered canyons, rolling grasslands, oak woodlands and quiet streams - all sustaining a variety of birds, mammals and fish.
Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area was acquired in 1996 by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to protect and enhance habitat for wildlife as well as provide the public with access to adjacent federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The wildlife area, managed in cooperation with the BLM, is located west of Lake Berryessa and south of Pope Canyon Road in northern Napa County. The wildlife area consists of 413 acres of former ranch land made up of two separate areas, the Maxwell Creek area and the Cedar Rough access area which is adjoined to the 6,500-acre BLM property. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) administers the 30,000 acre Lake Berryessa Recreation Area.
The dominant feature of Cedar Roughs is a 3,000-acre stand of Sargent cypress trees. Native to California, the Sargent cypress is an attractive evergreen conifer. The species occurs only in California, and while this occurrence itself is not unique, this stand is noteworthy because of its size. Sargent cypress can grow up to 50 feet high, with a canopy width two-thirds of its height. The BLM designated Cedar Roughs as a Wilderness Study Area and Area of Critical Environmental Concern in an effort to protect the area's botanical values and wildlife habitat.
For nearly a century the area was used for cattle grazing and farming, which has modified the environment, according to Jim Swanson, DFG's wildlife biologist for the area.
"Noxious weeds have moved into the area, taking over the native plant communities, and the riparian corridors along Pope and Maxell creeks have been degraded by past cattle grazing and gravel mining activities," Swanson said. Today, DFG jointly manages Cedar Roughs with BLM and BOR to protect and enhance the habitats of this area.
"Cedar Roughs provides an opportunity for state and federal agencies to work together to provide habitat restoration and public use of this fascinating area."
Both Pope and Maxwell creeks support small populations of white catfish, green sunfish, bluegill, and small mouth bass. In the past, rainbow trout from Lake Berryessa used Pope and Maxwell creeks for spawning.
"It is anticipated that restoration and enhancement efforts could reestablish trout populations in the creeks," Swanson said.
In addition, restoration efforts would support great blue heron, great and snowy egrets, waterfowl and wintering birds of prey, such as the bald eagle and golden eagle. Outdoor enthusiasts will find a variety of wildlife-related activities in the area, including hiking, hunting, fishing, nature study and wildlife viewing. Cedar Roughs sustains a wide array of wildlife, including mountain lion, deer, upland game species such as California quail and wild turkey, and a variety of songbirds.
Nature enthusiasts who come to the area will enjoy bird watching or hiking along the old cattle ranch road while identifying numerous animal tracks, including those of deer and turkey.
Whether enjoying the various trees and plants found in the wildlife area, bird watching, or scouting for wild turkeys during the hunting season, Cedar Roughs Wildlife Area is a great place to escape to nature.
How to get there and what to do.
Directions: Off Pope Canyon Road 4.2 miles west of Pope Creek bridge, Lake Berryessa, or 5.6 miles east of Pope Valley airstrip. Provides access to 175 acres of DFG and 160 acres of BLM lands adjacent to Maxwell Creek and access via abandoned Dollarhide Road. After approximately one mile, trail ends at private land.
Activities: Hiking, hunting, fishing, camping and wildlife viewing. The BLM is working to develop trails and a parking lot.
Camping: Though there is no camping on the DFG land, and no drinking water or restroom facilities, primitive camping is allowed on BLM land but fire permits are required.
For more information, contact:
Bureau of Land Management: (707) 468-4000
Bureau of Reclamation . Lake Berryessa Recreation Office: (707) 966-2111
California Dept. of Fish and Game, Central Coast Region: (707) 944-5500