Eco-Touring: April 2011

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” April 2011.

The Napa River Trail

Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

Walking, bicycling and improved river access for fishing, boating, kayaking and canoeing has already begun in many areas of Napa. It is part of the planning process the Flood District and the City of Napa is putting together for the Napa River Flood Project

The Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Napa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, is constructing the Napa River/Napa Creek Flood Protection Project along approximately seven miles of the Napa River.  Part of the project will be to construct recreation trails along the Napa River.

The Napa River Trail will consist of several miles of path from Kennedy Park to Trancas Street. This continuous trail will connect with the Commuter Bike Path, providing an off-street bike and pedestrian connection to the west side of Highway 29. It will be a path that runs parallel to the Napa Valley Wine Train tracks.

East of the river, the recreation trail has been completed from Kennedy Park to Hartle Court (behind South Napa Marketplace). On the west side of the river, a public promenade has been constructed from the Historic Hatt Building near Division Street to First Street in the downtown area. The Promenade Trail from South of Main Street to Veterans Memorial Park, Towpath Trail , from Lincoln Avenue to Trancas Street, Commuter Bike Path from Soscol to Solano, the Bay Trail and the Stanly Ranch Trail portion to the river trail have all finished construction and are already in use.

“The trail systems will provide opportunities for the community to view the river and the restored riparian areas,” said Julie Lucido, Flood Control District Project Manager. “Our project includes restoration of floodplains and riparian and tidal marsh habitats.”

Dave Perazzo, City of Napa Parks Superintendent, says his department’s area of responsibility is mainly multiuse trails that link our recreational areas. There are numerous trails in the County, but the City of Napa only maintains the trails that are within the City limits. The newest section, from Soscol to Main, was done within the last year.

According to Perazzo, the partnership with the Flood District has been successful is completing sections of trail as part of the Flood Control Project. As new flood walls or other flood control measures are built, the trail components are considered as part of that project. In many instances the trail doubles as a maintenance road.
“There are some aspects of these projects which are considered ‘betterments’ as they are not necessary for the flood aspect, but are needed for public recreational access and use,” he said. “The City has contributed funding to make these into full public trails with amenities such as benches and trash receptacles.”

Perazzo says the key factor is that the flood control aspect is being developed first, and the trail is part of the end result. Its focus in recent years has been on completing a number of park projects that will eventually be linked by the trail system. These have been funded by grants, redevelopment funds and some capital project budgets.

Extensive trails are planned for both sides of the river. As sections of riverbank improvements are completed, trails will be built,  linking up to form the complete trail system. The timeline has been pushed back because of the lack of federal funding.

“As for the City constructing new trails on its own, with shrinking capital budgets we would have to look at alternative funding sources, such as grant opportunities,” Perazzo said.

With funding from capital budgets and various grants, the City has constructed some sections of trail on its own over the years. Sections of the trail at Kennedy Park and along the river from Lincoln to Trancas were constructed this way.

Donald G. Ridenhour, P.E., City District Engineer, agrees that funding has been a challenge,  but it is making significant steps now in getting the funding it needs to complete the project.

“I’m excited about the project, but we have some major components left to do. When it is complete there will be much better river access than we have today,” Ridenhour said.

The original plan was to have the work done by 2005 or 2006, but the project is waiting on the funding  from the state and federal governments. If all goes as planned, the completion date is expected to be 2015.

For more information visit or call (707) 259-8600.

Eco-Touring: December 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” December 2010.

On the Road with Napa County Resource Conservation District
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

The more I get out-and-about in the Napa Valley, the more I become aware of the big picture of our environment. We have a valley that is approximately 30 miles from end to end; framed by Mt. St. Helena in the north, the Mayacamas Mountains to the west, and Howell Mt., Atlas Peak and Mt. George to the east. Our Napa River runs through the middle of the valley, surrounded by both urban and agricultural development. This is what meets the eye as we travel around the valley, enjoying our abundance of wine, food and culture. The “big picture” that I mentioned is the awareness of what ties all of these elements together: the Napa River Watershed. Long-time board member for Friends of the Napa River, Jim Hench, wisely states:  “Everything that happens in the river starts in the watershed.”

As stated on the website for the Watershed Information Center & Conservancy of Napa County (WICC), “A watershed is an area of land that drains into a common waterway. Ridge tops form the boundaries between watersheds, and topography or lay-of-the-land determines in which direction water flows. Watershed boundaries often cross county, state, and international borders.” ( Small rivulets and creeks trickle down the mountains, all flowing into the Napa River, which flows for a 55 mile stretch out to the San Pablo Bay. That means that if you were to build a house, way up on Spring Mountain, the pleasant little babbling brook running through your property will carry whatever flows into that little brook down into the Napa River; perhaps run-off from construction and/or home-improvement or pesticides from gardening. The good news is that we are more aware of our impact on this fragile environment, and property owners have supportive partnerships to call on for review and advice on the most sustainable practices available.

Our Napa County Resource Conservation District (RCD) has been providing this support by “promoting responsible watershed management through voluntary community stewardship and technical assistance since 1945.” (  Mindful, responsible land owners, who are committed to having their creeks stay healthy, call upon the RCD to provide education, assessment, planning and implementation. The RCD can assist landowners by reviewing erosion control plans and provide understanding of the Napa County’s Conservation Regulations that were established in 1991.

I traveled around Spring Mountain with RCD Executive Director, Lee Sharp, and Education Coordinator, Frances Knapczyk, gaining a new perspective of the dips in the terrain of the hillsides. Those tiny rivulets and streams are working their way down the mountainside. When a road is built, how we pass over the stream and build a culvert for it under the road is of major importance. On old, private roads, new engineering establishes better water/rain runoff so that gullies that send surges of silt and erosion into the streams are eliminated. Culverts are reconstructed to improve the angle of the flow under a road. Rocks provide better filtering at the entry and exit on either side of the road and, what perhaps appears to be a forgotten stake of rebar, is actually a “trash rack”, a place for grasses and debris to be snagged and held back from clogging the culvert.

In the photos provided, you can see in the photo labeled “Culvert Before” where you can hardly detect the opening of the bypass and observe how it is overgrown with surrounding vegetation. In the “Culvert After” photo, all is cleared and redirected. The new culvert is larger and in line with the natural stream channel.

The roadbed was excavated, removing the old culvert. A new, larger culvert is placed in line with the natural stream channel, then covered with dirt and compacted. Road improvement projects are an ongoing effort of the RCD. On the website,, you can find more information about the programs and assistance that the Napa RCD provides.

Here’s where our community help comes in!  The Napa RCD has a variety of programs that you can participate in. Volunteers monitor the watershed, pick up trash, plant trees and grasses, manage data, mentor high school students during restoration projects and assist with event planning. Think Earth Day, Creek To Bay Cleanup and more.

An education program, Students and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship (SLEWS) is a state-wide program through which high school classes participate in restoration work. The Napa program is coordinated by the Center for Land Based Learning, with assistance from the RCD. Adult volunteers are needed as mentors for the students.

There are plenty of workdays and community projects to join in on. Visit the Napa RCD website and look around for a great project that will spark your interest!  Education Coordinator, Stephanie Turnipseed is the contact for volunteer opportunities. She can be reached at (707) 252-4188, extension 111; or by email:

Eco-Touring: August 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” August 2010.

Back in the Old Country – Barn Tour 2010
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

I was on the road again with my friend Wendy, bouncing along in her 1980-something Jeep with the close company of her very happy dogs. Wendy, in boots and blue jeans, scrutinized my strappy sandals and said, “I guess you’ll be alright.” We were headed out to visit a few of the treasures of our Carneros region: big ol’ barns.

Wendy is Wendy Ward, Executive Director for Preservation Napa Valley and those “big ol’ barns” will be open to explore during the second annual Barn Tour 2010, Sunday, August 29th from 9:00am to 2:00pm. Preservation Napa Valley, in partnership with the Napa County Farm Bureau, has created the Barn Tour as an opportunity for the public to connect with the living history of our agricultural heritage. Barn Tour 2010 provides a chance for the public to visit numerous historic barns and share memories and stories with the old timers of these hidden gems of the Carneros region.

Our first stop was Vine Village to view Peters Barn and explore the property of this working farm and non-profit organization. In 1972 George and Grace Kerson purchased this expansive, beautiful property to “provide people with special needs the same quality of life that should be the birthright of all citizens.” Many of the old buildings: a barn, vegetable gardens, an old prune drying shed and more have been repurposed to suit contemporary needs. There is an art studio for the residents and visiting students that will be opened during this year’s tour. I was amazed at the remarkable, unique and diverse paintings and sculptures from these talented artists. We were escorted around the serene landscape of Vine Village by Executive Director, Mike Kerson; second generation in this organization. Vine Village has been a labor of love for this family for over 35 years. To get the story of the Peters Barn, we talked with 86 year old Bob Brown; one of the “old timers” who will be available during the Barn Tour. This big, red barn is an old hay barn, originally to stable the “fancy horses” owned by Ernie Peters in the 1940’s. With saddles adorned in silver, the Peters’ horses would strut their stuff in all the seasonal parades, including the Pasadena Rose Parade.

Back in the Jeep we headed into the “back country” of the Carneros region to visit Glen Bauder’s property that is home to the Sciligo Barn. Bauder raises Black Angus on his property, but back in the day, the Sciligo Barn was a huge milking barn for dairy cows up until about 1936. It also contained 14 foot stacks of hay. Not a fancy barn, but formidable and authoritative with rough, bare wood walls and cushy hay strewn about the floor. Dusty hay floors to be exact, and maybe my strappy sandals were not the best idea; but I didn’t mind getting some velvety, unpretentious Napa Valley dust between my toes.

All around the property is evidence of the natural sandstone rock that was quarried for the foundations of homes and the horse barn. These ranches and farms were run by “horse power” as our old timer, Bob, pointed out. “Horse power is how everything got done”, says Bob. “My granddad did it, Dad did it and I did it…and now I wonder how the heck did we do it!”

Next we ventured from the north side of Hwy 121 to the south and into the wine country of Carneros to view the Raven Barn at Adastra Vineyards, a certified organic vineyard. The Raven family emigrated from Denmark in the late 1800’s, purchasing 40 acres with $1000 in gold coins! Originally the land was farmed for hay and vineyards before prohibition. Adastra owner, Chris Thorpe, has graciously offered his property to be the hub of the event for check-in on the Barn Tour. Begin your tour at Adastra and enjoy “Brunch in a Barn” with acoustic Appalachian music by the Cobb Stompers. Try your hand at making garden fresh tomato juice and stroll the gardens on the Adastra property. A presentation about the tour will be given by Wendy Ward of Preservation Napa Valley and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. (

For our final barn visit we traversed deep into the foothills of Milliken Peak. A hundred year old wood-plank fence borders the road that leads to Henry Ranch. Stepping out of the Jeep the scene reminded me of an old movie back lot and we were surrounded by a Wild West ghost town. The Henry Ranch was self-sufficient with chickens, horses and cows for milk and churning butter. It was also the long-time home of Herbie Henry (who will be on-site during the Barn Tour), the great great grandson of the original pioneer, Elisha Henry, who purchased the property in 1850. Each building on the property was erected by a Henry family member and their names and dates are etched in the concrete foundations. The property was purchased in 1993 by V. Sattui winery and is in use for their vineyard management team.

Preservation Napa Valley’s Barn Tour 2010 will once again delight and enlighten anyone who is curious about our hidden Napa Valley agricultural heritage. The present owners of each property have an inherent commitment to keep this history alive; by adaptive reuse of structures, organic farming, and sustainable practices. I am inspired by their generosity; welcoming us on their properties to tour these significant buildings and share the captivating stories of the pioneers of Napa County.

The Barn Tour 2010 is a self-guided auto tour taking place on back roads, small lanes and in old buildings. Once again, there will be a limited edition of the annual, collectable Barn Tour poster available for sale. Go to for this year’s design (artist Mike Gray will be onsite to sign).

Tickets are limited! This event sold out last year. Tickets are $45/person, includes site visits, map/guide/histories, Brunch in a Barn, docents at each barn site, music and art show. Tickets can be purchased online at, or call 707-258-9286.

Eco-Touring: July 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” July 2010.

A Change of Scenery… with Change of Greenery

Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

Napa Valley is a great place for cyclists. Throughout spring and summer we see throngs of bicycle teams cruising up and down Silverado Trail, or along the frontage road of Hwy 29. These folks are serious cyclists; they’ve got specialized gear and the extra stamina it takes to pump up & over the inclines along the valley’s trails and roadways. I am not one of those people. I have a simple cruising bike that, from my neighborhood, I can get as far as downtown Napa and back. To journey up the valley, a round trip of twenty miles or more, well, I think I’d need something such as a bike with a motor; maybe one of those electric bicycles?

A few years back, Carolyn Nguyen had similar thoughts. She wanted to be able to ride through the countryside at leisure. So, she did, indeed, buy an electric bicycle. From there, her entrepreneurial spirit took hold and she created a business that helps visitors and locals enjoy the abundance of this valley while actually helping to reduce the carbon emissions that pollute our fragile environment. She wanted to give us a change of scenery and she created Change of Greenery, the only electric bike tour in the Napa Valley.

Carolyn grew up in Pasadena, Texas, a town surrounded by oil refineries and serious air pollution. She was accustomed to being a “car person”, and long bike rides were not the norm. After college, she became an avid traveler and headed out on a cross-country journey. While traveling, she often considered how a bicycle would have been a great way to see even more of the landscape she was visiting. A bigger world was opening up as she learned of healthier lifestyles and alternatives to view the world through; more than what an auto’s front windshield can provide.

Fast-forward to Napa, and Carolyn Nguyen is the founder and Operations Manager of Change of Greenery. Change of Greenery is in partnership with the Marriott Napa Valley Hotel & Spa. The Change of Greenery bike rental stand sits out front of the main entrance of the Marriott. With a fleet of 20 bikes, this electric bike rental provides visitors and locals the opportunity to venture farther than they might think possible, taking in the spectacular views of the valley and visiting the many wonderful restaurants, wineries and more.

Each bike is outfitted with helmet, ample basket and combination lock. Change of Greenery has partnered with thirty Napa Valley merchants and wineries that offer complimentary goodies such as chocolates, wine tastings, 2-for-1 wine tastings and other discounts. Your rental includes the Napa Valley Green Card to present to each of the partners for the specials. An all day rental, from morning until closing, at 7:00pm, is $75.00. Napa Valley locals can rent all day for $50.00. What a great event for visiting friends and family! Outfit them with electric bikes from Change of Greenery and kids and grandparents can join you for a leisurely tour to the valley’s finest destinations. Three different touring maps are provided, clearly outlining the distances and the partner venues to visit. If you do some shopping and have wine and purchases to carry, just give Change of Greenery a call while you’re out and they will pick up your purchases for you.

I was thrilled to learn of this innovative way to tour Napa Valley! My husband and I hopped on a couple of the Change of Greenery electric bikes and headed for Yountville. The bikes are operated by a removable lithium-ion battery. In the “pedal assist” mode the battery provides an added push to your pedaling. This helps you get up over inclines and across intersections faster and with ease. In “full throttle” you can zip along, much like on a moped, up to a top speed of 15mph. My hubby enjoyed this completely and scooted ahead of me with a big grin and calling back to me, “Why pedal if you don’t have to?!” Somehow I think he was missing the point; anyway, to each his own!

Eco-Touring: May 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” May 2010.

In Calistoga, a Few of My Favorite Things
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

I live at the south end of the Napa Valley and the town of Calistoga is a beautiful 25 mile drive to the north end. I have a lot of favorite things up yonder in that quaint, historic town. A favorite pastime of mine is to wander through the Sharpsteen Museum at 1311 Washington Street where the detailed dioramas transport me back to the 1800’s, and I can see and feel history through the life-size exhibits of natives and settlers that came before us. Another favorite is that Calistoga is such a great “walking town.”   I enjoy strolling down Lincoln Avenue to see what’s new in the stores and then lunch at the Sarafornia Café for, of course, another favorite: the best BLT sandwich I have found in the valley (don’t forget the avocado!). Recently, after enjoying one of those great BLT’s, I wanted to check out the new Logvy Community Park at the north end of Washington Street.

From Lincoln Avenue you can easily walk or bike to Logvy Community Park; about six blocks up Washington Street to N. Oak Street. The park covers 10.5 acres, providing pristine sports fields, the new community pool and Community Gardens. A very special addition to the park is the Veterans Memorial Plaza. The memorial has six striking granite columns, one dedicated to each of the military services. In front of the columns are 300 bricks inlaid on the plaza with the names of veterans engraved in each. This memorial was a vision held for over a decade by three locals, Jim Barnes, Paul Coates and William Albright. Their mission is to honor any veteran with the memorial and, in November 2009, an estimated 300 to 500 people proudly witnessed the unveiling of the memorial. After taking in the peaceful reverence of the Veterans Memorial Plaza I was moved to make a connection with another of my favorite sites in Calistoga.

About four blocks back up Washington Street I turned right on Berry Street and headed to Foothill Blvd (Hwy 29) where I turned right. Just a mile from where I started at Logvy Park I reached Calistoga’s Pioneer Cemetery. For me this cemetery is one of the most intriguing, picturesque places in Napa Valley.

The entrance is a log-and-post gateway with limited space for parking; better to park off Foothill Blvd. and walk in. Established circa 1877, the cemetery spans up and over the wooded hillside, the family plots and burial grounds roughly outlined with worn out stone borders. Here and there, moss covered, uneven stone steps lead up to nothing; burial places disintegrated over time. Aged, ragged and crumbling I find Pioneer Cemetery comforting, not eerie; as if I can visit with the settlers of the past in this quiet, peaceful resting place.

In the spring, the grounds are covered from roadside to hilltop with the lush green vines and periwinkle blossoms of Vinca. Wildflowers and hardy pink Amaryllis grow in clusters around blank wood and stone grave markers, where the names have long been weathered away. Plain, wood plank markers, lean together, holding each other up through the centuries; perhaps a family long gone, but hopefully not forgotten. Our stalwart pioneer families are buried here under tall, twisting oak trees and gnarly, peeling, red-barked Madrones, whose ruddy hue complements a few fancier red granite headstones.

Calistoga’s roots run deep in our valley’s history. Here, in our slam-bang present time, we can visit this quiet, sunny, pretty town and drift back in time. In the spring the many charming homes show off old fashioned gardens full of colorful blooms and grasses. This summer, take some time to visit Calistoga where the sultry summer heat will force you to slow down, wander around and enjoy life.

Walking or biking through the residential part of town admiring the beautiful Victorian homes is a great way to experience the history of this town. I recommend covering the whole town and area by bicycle to experience the full spectrum of this end of the valley. The City of Calistoga is working diligently to provide the ease and safety of bike riding throughout the area. In 2009, the City of Calistoga was honored as a Bronze Level Bicycle-Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists. This program provides incentives and recognition to cities like Calistoga which actively support bicycling in their communities. You can read the full report of this honor at the Napa County Bicycle Coalition website:

The City of Calistoga has an extensive website with lots of information for residents and visitors. Visit:  Do a search for “bike map” and you’ll find links on the page to download the map; or just ask at local shops in the area.

Eco-Touring: April 2010

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” April 2010.

Spring In Full Swing
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

It’s April and finally the sunny days are outnumbering the rainy ones! Our poor front lawn is lush and green again, and trees are blossoming all over the place. My hubby and I are taking stock of our winter-ravaged back yard and getting ready to plant new flowers and vegetables. Thanks to many environmental groups, such as Friends of the Napa River, the Sierra Club and the California Native Plant Society, I’m learning about the importance of native planting and landscaping for cultivating a low-maintenance garden that is lovely to behold and provides sustainability for a healthy eco-system. A few years ago I sort of stumbled upon my first introduction to native planting while exploring Skyline Wilderness Park. Just north of the Skyline Park Social Hall, you’ll find a three acre rustic, restful place that is the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden.

Over 150 native plants are labeled throughout the garden, providing an educational experience for those who visit. The paths meander through sections of the garden; special areas designed to represent the native species of plants and flowers that grow over the 850 acres of Skyline Park as well as Napa and adjacent counties. There are shady spots with benches and chairs; gathering areas for families and friends to share their discoveries of the landscape. In the Children’s Wildlife Habitat Garden, kids (and adults) are introduced to the eco-system that is generated by native plants that bring native insects and, in turn, attract native wildlife. There are secluded areas with bench seating for quiet bird-watching among the fruit trees and shrubs donated by members of the Napa-Solano Audubon Society. I think Martha Walker would be very pleased to know that her love of gardening and her commitment to the environment is carried on by the efforts of so many volunteers and a great community spirit. The full story of how the Martha Walker Native Habitat Garden was established can be found at the Napa Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society:

The Napa Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) maintains the Martha Walker Garden with their group of volunteers, Friends of the Martha Walker Garden. Throughout the year they offer workshops for all ages to promote the awareness of native planting and how we can bring this important style of gardening into our own landscaping. The Skyline Nursery is also maintained by volunteers. Seeds are sowed, cuttings rooted, and young starts planted to provide plants for the Martha Walker Garden, Skyline Park and other restoration projects. You don’t have to be a master gardener to volunteer; it can be a wonderful opportunity to enhance your interest in native planting and to lend a hand in preserving our natural environment.

You’ll be able to get in the full swing of spring at the annual CNPS Wildflower Show and Plant Sale to be held on Saturday and Sunday, April 10-11 from 10:00am to 4:00pm. How often have you seen a lovely wildflower and wondered which one it is, or if you could have it growing in your own garden? At the Wildflower Show there will be over 200 flowers labeled and on display to marvel at the wide variety we have in our habitat. There will also be over 100 different native species for sale, ready for your own garden. Most local nurseries carry about 10 to 15, so the CNPS Plant Sale is the best opportunity for the public to take advantage of this selection. Additional fun during the weekend will be wildflower walks, bee-keeping demonstrations and plenty of experts on hand to answer your gardening questions.

On Friday, April 9th, there will be a special Preview Night for CNPS members and their guests. If you become a member right away, you’ll be able to join in on the fun with wine tasting, a silent auction and the premiere selection of the plant sale. The preview will be held at the Skyline Nursery in Skyline Park. Visit the CNPS website for complete information and to easily become a member online:

Eco-Touring – December 2009

Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Eco-Touring” December 2009.

Walking The River
Ramblin’ On, by the Napa Nomad – Eco-excursions in the Napa Valley
By Arvis Northrop

Every year I am dazzled by the autumn views along the Silverado Trail. Breathtaking, awesome, splendiferous, are words that come to mind. The gold, scarlet and green, with the late afternoon sun glowing through the vines bring a surge of gratitude to be able to live in this valley. In November I was on my way to Rutherford for a special opportunity to get up close and personal with the Napa River. As I drove north on the Silverado Trail, marveling at said vines and views, I realized that many of our visitors may not even be aware that the Napa River meanders this far north through the valley. Gazing out over the vineyards the river is hidden; one might think the land just stretches solid and flat, straight across from the Vaca Mountains in the east to the Mayacamas in the west. But down in its well worn trench, crossed by our historic stone bridges is the artery of life as we know it in our famous Napa Valley.

In our history the river was used for its bounty of stone for buildings, dredging the rocks which left too sandy a bottom for the natural habitat of salmon and trout. The flow of the river has been controlled by building up the banks to protect one property, only to send it flowing too high to another; and so it goes as we worked with and against our Napa River. I believe that for centuries the people living and thriving in the Napa Valley have held the Napa River close to their hearts and, fortunately, we learn from our mistakes. People will take a stand to repair and restore what seemed like a good idea at the time.

Since 1994 the Rutherford Dust Society has stood firmly committed “to encourage and promote the highest quality standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford Viticultural Area.”  ( In 2002, a subcommittee of the Society was formed to initiate a plan to manage and restore the Napa River that is so vital to their land and community: the Rutherford Dust (Napa River) Restoration Team, RDRT or, think of it as “our dirt”! The restoration project will manage and restore the 4.5 mile stretch of the Napa River and its watershed between the Zinfandel Lane Bridge and Oakville Cross Road. RDRT has successfully pioneered an innovative partnership with Napa County to realize this vision. With over five years of detailed engineering and ecological studies, the project construction commenced with Phase I in July of this year. The team is chaired by Rutherford Dust Society board member, Davie Piña of Piña Vineyard Management, LLC and includes over twenty five river side property owners.  The project is coordinated by leadership from Napa County, the Napa County Resource Conservation District, and Napa County Water Conservation. To review the details of the project please visit the project website at:

For my “river walk” experience, I met with Gretchen Hayes, of Tessera Watershed Partners, and facilitator of the RDRT team. Gretchen’s professional title is “Geomorphologist”; geo = earth, morph = change, and “ology” being the study of such.  Studying the changes in the earth and bringing her expertise to monitor the flow and erosion of our Napa River. Gretchen represents the folks I admire that “get right down in the dirt of our land to figure out how to support nature and give back what we have taken away.”

I wriggled into big rubber waders, cinched them up to my chest and followed Gretchen down the bank to a section of river. Our objective was to be able to walk right into the river and be surrounded by the trees, bushes, rocks, gravel, birds and critters that make their home along the banks. I learned that a river “pools, riffles and glides”.  Create in your mind the meandering line of the river, as the water pushes through a gravel bank (a riffle) and then rushes into an open space (a pool) then gently glides to the next riffle. “Pool, riffle and glide” sounds like a graceful dance step doesn’t it?

The section of river that we explored exhibited how the river banks have eroded below the land surface, down 15 to 20 feet. Great oak and willow trees, root systems exposed, will inevitably break away and fall into the river. “LWD” was pointed out to me: “large, woody debris”; tree trunks, stumps and limbs as we know them. These logs, pushed to the side, form a new extended bank and eventually become a beneficial habitat for fish and wildlife. If needed, the restoration team will introduce logs into the river for this purpose to aid the flow of the river.

We’ll have more salmon swimming and spawning and flourishing in our river! There are many ripples winding around the gravel banks, providing the perfect environment for spawning. As the Rutherford Dust Napa River Restoration advances there is a plan for a salmon ladder at the Zinfandel Bridge. Our Napa River, often described as being sluggish, will be brought back to a thriving natural habitat for wildlife and an enhancement to our community.

Most areas of the river are on private property, and not accessible for the public. Therefore, I encourage everyone with a curiosity and love of our Napa River to contact the Napa County Resource Conservation District to participate in the programs that bring people to the river throughout the year. Visit: or call the Napa County RCD a 707-252-4188 x100.