Todays trip is a hike that will focus on the landscape and butterflies at the Cascade Canyon Preserve.
This lush preserve, tucked into the hills above Fairfax, is one of the true gems of the Open Space District. Cascade Canyon incorporates 498 acres of some of the most pristine habitat in the Corte Madera Creek watershed. Cascade Falls, at the head of the main canyon, is a popular destination, particularly in winter and spring when flows are at their peak. Even on a relatively short walk, one can traverse a wide variety of habitats and see an assortment of unusual native plants. The canyons and lower slopes are sheltered by mixed broadleaf and evergreen forests above lush riparian corridors. Nature lovers can find attractions here at any time of the year; birds and wildflowers in spring, mushrooms and ferns in winter and cool shaded retreats during even the hottest summer days. The permanent water in the upper reaches of San Anselmo, Carey Camp, and Cascade creeks act as a wildlife magnet and provides some of the best Steelhead spawning habitat in the county. Most of the current preserve was once owned by Floyd Elliot, a former Mayor of the town of Fairfax. This acreage was passed to the Open Space District in the early 1970’s. An additional 176 acres was donated to MCOSD later by the Ettinger family, who named the area’s most prominent feature (now known as Pam’s Blue Ridge) in honor of their daughter, Pamela. Parking at all of the access points to Cascade Canyon is extremely limited, so please be careful to observe local ordinances when you visit.
With several permanent streams running through, this preserve is a wildlife magnet throughout the year. This is one of the best places to see nearly every species of reptile and amphibian in Marin (including rattlesnakes) and the abundant wildflowers attract an incredible variety of butterflies. Black-headed grosbeaks, Olive-sided flycatchers, and Black-throated Gray Warblers are among the many birds that thrive in this pristine valley.
From Hwy 101 in Larkspur, take the Sir Francis Drake Blvd exit west towards Fairfax, turn left at Pacheco, turn right at Broadway, turn left at Bolinas Rd, and turn right at Cascade Dr. Entrance gate is at the end. Parking is limited, so carpool if you can.
I will be leaving Fairfield, Raley's Shopping Center at 7am. Bring water, snacks, sun screen, and comfortable walking shoes.