Big Break’s May Programs Highlight Delta Ecology, Wildlife, Crafts and Fun
By Beverly Lane;
Back in 1928 a levee gave way that was holding back the waters of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, flooding an asparagus farm near Oakley to a depth of about five feet. Locals named the resulting expanse of water Big Break.
Big Break remains mostly open water today, and about 1,650 acres of it are preserved as Big Break Regional Shoreline. It opened in 2012 as East Bay Regional Park District’s newest visitor center. It’s also the first and only public facility in the entire Delta that offers nature interpretive programs about the Delta. And it’s used for meetings by various Delta commissions and committees that are planning for the Delta’s future.
Programs at Big Break highlight the Delta’s ecology and rich variety of wildlife. Mammals including beavers, river otters and muskrats inhabit the area and have been captured on video through motion-activated cameras. Bird life includes great blue herons, egrets, pelicans, cormorants, grebes and coots, to mention just a few. All kinds of fish inhabit the Delta waterways. In sum, the importance of the Delta to California’s natural environment cannot be overstated.
Big Break Visitor Center has interactive exhibits depicting both the natural and cultural history of the Delta. Nearby is a unique feature – a 1,200-square-foot map of the Delta that demonstrates how water flows through the region. The map is a walk-on display.
Other attractions include a 100-foot pier for fishing and wildlife viewing, a spot from which canoeists and kayakers can launch to explore Big Break, an amphitheater, a sand play area for kids, and picnic tables.
There are lots of trail connections, too. Big Break Regional Trail extends east along the shoreline for several miles to the Marsh Creek Regional Trail, which in turn leads south through Oakley and Brentwood to the Delta De Anza Regional Trail. These are flat, paved trails. They are closed to motorized traffic, but open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians.
Big Break’s naturalist staff offers programs throughout the year. Here’s a schedule for coming weeks:
From 9 to 10 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday you can help the staff test the Delta water quality using state of the art equipment. Results go into a regional database that is used by scientific researchers and water managers.
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, there are arts and crafts activities for all ages at the visitor center, with a different theme each week.
Fish are the focus of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 16. Learn how to identify the many varieties in Delta waters.
On Sunday, May 17 explore the Big Break Regional Trail on a walk with naturalist Ashley Grenier.
Naturalist Kevin Damstra will host a coffee talk from 8:30 to 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 20, and the third Wednesday of every subsequent month. From tunnels to farming to fish stocks, the topic is current events that are affecting the Delta.
It’s all about levees and marshlands in a program from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 23. And the Big Break bird hunt (for observation only) is from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 24.
On Sunday, June 14 there’s a family campfire from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Bring a picnic dinner to enjoy before the campfire program, which will include s’mores.
Big Break is located at 69 Big Break Road off Main Street in Oakley. For more information on the park and its programs, call 888-327-2757, ext. 3050.