Middle Sespe Toad-Hugging

Wading a deep section of the Sespe

Wading a deep section of the Sespe

Sespe Creek snakes through the heart of the Los Padres forest like a coronary artery. It starts below Oak Springs, south of Ventucopa and flows east until it smacks into the foot of the Hopper Mountain bioregion, finally emptying into the Santa Clara River after a 55 mile journey.

Last weekend, while the rest of the country celebrated the fallen war dead by burning meat over a propane fire, I met my fellow toad-huggers at the middle Sespe to conduct a survey of invasive species and take a long walk in a quiet place.

Following the creekbed from Beaver Camp to the edge of Lion Canyon isn’t exactly canyoneering but it’s not a trail hike either. About one third of the time you’re lumping your pack from boulder to boulder and another third of the time you’re slogging through decomposing plant matter in a foot or more of slow moving water. The rest of the time you’re up to your waist in cold water or you’re recovering from a stumble which, while painful, still counts as progress.

On this trip we geo-tagged one mature tamarisk bush on Rock Creek, and five seedlings along the Sespe. Such a low count was a surprise, considering the infestations we’ve seen on Piru Creek. It was also a mystery – some of the seedlings on the Sespe were upstream from the “mother” plant on Rock Creek. So what was their source?

To get an idea of how tamarisk can impact a habitat check out this Before and After featuring Ansel Adams’ documentation of Canyon de Chelly.

(Yes, we also found a mating pair of Arroyo toads – the immediate recipients of this largesse.)