Elegant Waters

Life pulses in Uvas Canyon County Park

CASCADE The creeks at Uvas Canyon County Park descend with an artistry that adds another dimension to nature’s concerto. Photo: Ron Erskine

We live in one of the few regions on our planet with a Mediterranean climate—dry summers and wet winters. We can count on the dry summers, but more and more, fickle winters haven’t always delivered their half of the bargain. When the rains do come, the pulse of life returns to our landscape. After a long dry summer, the sound of falling rain and the greening of our hills lift our hearts and spirits.

The rains gather in the creases of our hills, and as the creeks tumble toward the valleys, they bring the most beautiful music, especially to ears parched by a tedious Saharan summer. So far this winter, a fairly wet winter has brought us the welcome sound of splashing water beside nearly any water course. But the creeks at Uvas Canyon County Park descend with an artistry that adds another dimension to the concert.

Uvas Canyon County Park is not the best park for a long hike, but for a short stroll past waterfalls and streams splashing over moss-covered stones, it is unequalled. The Waterfall Loop Trail is only a mile long, but whether you bring a camera or not, continuous Kodak moments will slow your walk.

Steps from the trailhead, just above the first bridge across Swanson Creek, a lovely little cascade gives you a taste of what lies ahead. Up the trail, past white alder, thimbleberry, and a variety of ferns, the trail crosses the creek once again. Where the trail divides, take the footpath that descends to the creekside. That’s where the action is. While larger falls lie ahead, this stretch of the creek traces a path through the rocky creekbed with an intimate artistry.

Above yet another bridge, the headline acts step forward. Upper Falls makes a fine plunge into a pool on the main path of Swanson Creek, but the two rock stars, Basin Falls and Black Rock Falls, are hidden just steps up separate creek forks across the road. Basin Falls makes a picturesque two-step drop past moss-covered rocks and fern fronds, then veers right for a final tumble into a pool for a brief rest.

If waterfalls are measured by vertical drop alone, Black Rock Falls is the champ. A sign marks the side trail up a creek fork to a narrow viewpoint. While it can’t compete with the jaw-dropping attractions in Yosemite, Black Rock Falls, just moments from home, doesn’t disappoint.

Storms in February 2017 damaged Croy Road and closed Uvas Canyon County Park for more than a year. Since the park reopened, Santa Clara County Parks has instituted a reservation-only policy for day-use activities on weekends and holidays. If you show up without a reservation, you will be turned away. You can make reservations by phone at 1 (408) 355-2201 or online at gooutsideandplay.org.

Spring won’t last forever. When July and August return and the creeks grow silent, we will long for the music playing now on Swanson Creek.

Ron Erskine
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About Ron Erskine
Ron Erskine is a local outdoors columnist and avid hiker.