BigO Tyres

Plan on spending a day at Lake Chabot on Aug. 8. Open to participants age 12 and up. Costs range from $32 and $42, which...

Plan on spending a day at Lake Chabot on Aug. 8. Open to participants age 12 and up. Costs range from $32 and $42, which does not include lunch. Register at

Between El Nino and the drought, the East Bay’s natural landscape is filled with oddities these days. Giant purple sea slugs are turning up on the shoreline, birds are migrating months earlier than usual, and mammals appear to be few and far between.

No place is better to observe these natural shifts than Big Break Regional Shoreline in Oakley. Located at the junction of the Delta and the Bay, the park offers an ideal vantage of how climate change, water policy and natural fluctuations in the weather and currents affect our region.

Among the most notable changes is the influx of salt water toward the Delta. Ordinarily, salt water from the Pacific meets freshwater form the Delta around the Antioch marina. These days, it’s moved about 8 miles upstream to the Big Break area. 

The water is also warmer than usual ““ in some cases four or five degrees warmer than normal for this time of year. The reasons for this are many: less cold water from Sierra snowpack, less cold freshwater being released from the Delta due to farming needs and other water policies, warm waters caused by El Nino flowing into the Bay, and other variables.

All these changes affect plants, fish, birds and other wildlife that live along the Carquinez Strait and Delta sloughs. One might see migrating marbled godwits and long-billed curlews months ahead of schedule, or unusual mixes freshwater, saltwater, native and non-native grasses.

“We are right in the middle of it all,” said Big Break supervisor Mike Moran. “But Big Break is a great place to visit anyway. It’s a little cooler than the inland areas, it’s breezy, it’s quiet and relaxing”¦and it’s beautiful.”

The public can learn more about the changes in the Delta and Carquinez Strait every weekend by helping with water testing. Every Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 10 a.m., join student scientists as they use state-of-the=-art equipment to test for dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity and other variables. The results are sent to a regional database for use by scientists, water managers and researchers.

Big Break also has a first-rate visitor center that focuses on the Delta ecology, history and wildlife. Trails, a fishing pier, boat launch, an amphitheater and picnic areas are also available at the 1,150-acre park.

Big Break is located at 69 Big Break Road, Oakley.


At the other end of the East Bay Regional Park District, stop by Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont on Aug. 2 to learn about Ohlone village life.

Ohlone tribes thrived in the East Bay for 10,000 years and had complex, sophisticated and diverse societies. Learn about the different roles of men and woman, which plants and animals they relied upon for food, medicine and tools, and generally what life was like in an Ohlone village.

This free event is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the park’s visitor center, 8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont. No registration required.

Coyote Hills is home to a reconstructed Tuibun Ohlone village site, complete with family house, shade shelter and sweat house. The visitor center also has an extensive stock of Native American historical information.


After learning about the Ohlone, stop by Ardenwood for a different kind of East Bay history lesson: Victorian lawn games.

Women in the 19th century were not encouraged to participate in many athletic events. Except for croquet, that is. Check out elegantly attired volunteers as they demonstrate the genteel game of croquet, and maybe even try your own hand with the mallet.


Ardenwood is just up Interstate 880 from Coyote Hills, at 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont.


Fruit lovers will want to check out “A Taste of Briones,” an Aug. 9 event that includes a challenging 3-mile hike capped with a sampling of the pears and other fruit growing in the historic orchards dating from the area’s farm days.

The event is free and open to hikers age 10 and up. No registration required. 


Meet at the end of Briones Road outside Martinez. Go to for more information.

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