Novato Creek

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Novato Creek
Novato Creek 5.jpg
Novato Creek in summer 2016
Relief map of California.png
Red pog.svg
Location of the mouth within California
Native name Spanish: Cañada de Novato [1]
Country United States
State California
Region Marin County
Cities Novato, Bel Marin Keys
Physical characteristics
SourceNortheastern Marin County
 - locationabove Novato, California
 - coordinates 38°8′36″N122°38′33″W / 38.14333°N 122.64250°W / 38.14333; -122.64250 [2]
 - elevation1,100 ft (340 m)
 - coordinates
38°5′43″N122°29′18″W / 38.09528°N 122.48833°W / 38.09528; -122.48833 Coordinates: 38°5′43″N122°29′18″W / 38.09528°N 122.48833°W / 38.09528; -122.48833 [2]
 - elevation
0 ft (0 m)
Basin features
 - leftBowman Canyon Creek
 - rightVineyard Creek, Arroyo Avichi, Arroyo San Jose

Novato Creek is a stream in eastern Marin County, California, United States. It originates in highlands between Red Hill and Mount Burdell above the city of Novato, California, and flows 17 miles (27 km) before emptying into San Pablo Bay south of Petaluma Point.

Stream A body of surface water flowing down a channel

A stream is a body of water with surface water flowing within the bed and banks of a channel. The stream encompasses surface and groundwater fluxes that respond to geological, geomorphological, hydrological and biotic controls.

Marin County, California County in California, United States

Marin County is a county located in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 252,409. Its county seat is San Rafael. Marin County is included in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.



Miwok and Pomo people were the earliest residents of the watershed. Olompali, the site of a significant Miwok village, is located at the southern base of Mt. Burdell. In 1839 Mexican land grants established Rancho Novato. Grazing brought a host of invasive annual grassland plants that eventually dominated the deep-rooted native perennial grasses and altered runoff rates.


The Miwok are members of four linguistically related Native American groups indigenous to what is now Northern California, who traditionally spoke one of the Miwok languages in the Utian family. The word Miwok means people in the Miwok language.

Pomo indigenous people of California

The Pomo are an indigenous people of California. The historic Pomo territory in northern California was large, bordered by the Pacific Coast to the west, extending inland to Clear Lake, and mainly between Cleone and Duncans Point. One small group, the Northeastern Pomo of the Stonyford vicinity of Colusa County, was separated from the core Pomo area by lands inhabited by Yuki and Wintuan speakers.

By 1856 extensive apple orchards occupied the valley floor and many of the creeks had been channelized for irrigation. The tidal marshlands had also been diked and drained for agriculture (primarily oat-hay production) by the middle of the nineteenth century. In the 1880s the creek was dredged to make way for schooners bound for San Francisco.

Novato, one of the four townships in existence when Marin County formed in 1850, was incorporated in 1960. Ground was broken for Hamilton Air Force Base in 1932 and dedicated in 1935 (the base was decommissioned in 1974, and designated as a historic district in 1988). [3]

Land use changes have increased sediment supply and decreased sediment transport, causing the lower reaches of Novato Creek to become shallower. In addition, the construction of Stafford Dam (starting in 1952 [4] ) increased its drainage area by 5.2 square miles (13 km2). [5]

Sediment Particulate solid matter that is deposited on the surface of land

Sediment is a naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of wind, water, or ice or by the force of gravity acting on the particles. For example, sand and silt can be carried in suspension in river water and on reaching the sea bed deposited by sedimentation and if buried, may eventually become sandstone and siltstone.

Sediment transport The movement of solid particles, typically by gravity and fluid entrainment

Sediment transport is the movement of solid particles (sediment), typically due to a combination of gravity acting on the sediment, and/or the movement of the fluid in which the sediment is entrained. Sediment transport occurs in natural systems where the particles are clastic rocks, mud, or clay; the fluid is air, water, or ice; and the force of gravity acts to move the particles along the sloping surface on which they are resting. Sediment transport due to fluid motion occurs in rivers, oceans, lakes, seas, and other bodies of water due to currents and tides. Transport is also caused by glaciers as they flow, and on terrestrial surfaces under the influence of wind. Sediment transport due only to gravity can occur on sloping surfaces in general, including hillslopes, scarps, cliffs, and the continental shelf—continental slope boundary.

Aggradation The increase in land elevation due to the deposition of sediment

Aggradation is the term used in geology for the increase in land elevation, typically in a river system, due to the deposition of sediment. Aggradation occurs in areas in which the supply of sediment is greater than the amount of material that the system is able to transport. The mass balance between sediment being transported and sediment in the bed is described by the Exner equation.

Watershed and course

Novato Creek in summer 2016 Novato Creek 3.jpg
Novato Creek in summer 2016

The Novato Creek watershed basin is 45 square miles (120 km2). Novato Creek is joined (heading downstream) by six major tributaries along its 17-mile (27 km) length: Leveroni, Bowman Canyon, Warner, Vineyard Creek, Arroyo Avichi, Arroyo de San Jose, and Simmonds Slough. [3] Arroyo San Jose itself has two tributaries. It is joined on the left by Ignacio Creek and on the right by Pacheco Creek (at Pacheco Pond) just before entering Novato Creek. Novato Creek and its tributaries are often eroded, incised channels. It is one of the driest watersheds in Marin County.

Novato Creek begins to the west of Mount Burdell and initially descends to the west. However, it soon turns south, then east to feed into Stafford Lake. It descends through the city of Novato. East of Novato it crosses under U.S. Route 101 and State Route 37 before flowing through Bel Marin Keys and entering the northwest corner of San Pablo Bay.

Stafford Lake County Park

Stafford Lake County Park is a park in the Marin County, California parks system, managed by the Marin County Department of Parks and Open Space. The 139 acres (0.56 km2) park is located in Novato, 33 miles (53 km) north of San Francisco California and is in a classic northern California valley among grazing farmland.

Novato, California City in California, United States

Novato is a city in northern Marin County, in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 51,904. Novato is located about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of San Rafael and about 30 miles (48 km) north of San Francisco on U.S. 101. Novato has been called one of the best places to live in the U.S.

California State Route 37 highway in California

State Route 37 is a state highway in the northern part of California that runs 21 miles (34 km) along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay. It is built from U.S. Route 101 in Novato and runs through the southern tip of Sonoma and Solano Counties to Interstate 80 in Vallejo. It serves as a vital connection between the four counties of the North Bay Area, north of San Francisco; Sonoma Raceway and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom are accessible from Route 37.

Just before entering the Bay, Novato Creek flows along Bel Marin Keys, an affluent community on the creek and a series of adjacent lagoons, at an elevation of 10 feet (3.0 m) above sea level.


Salmonids (steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)) are also found within the Novato Creek watershed. The Novato Creek watershed is known to support 10 extant fish species (6 native and 4 introduced). Native species include California roach, Sacramento pikeminnow, Sacramento sucker, steelhead, threespine stickleback, and Prickly sculpin. Introduced species include rainwater killifish, western mosquitofish, striped bass, and green sunfish. [3] Fawcett (2000 and 2006) also noted the presence of non-native bluegill, largemouth bass, brown bullhead, chameleon goby, and inland silverside. Historically, the watershed supported native tidewater goby; the last collection occurred in 1945. [6]

Wetland-adapted species occur along Rush Creek and the lower Novato Creek wetlands. Noteworthy species include San Pablo song sparrow, California black rail, saltmarsh common yellowthroat, and California clapper rail. Western pond turtles and naturalized bullfrogs are known to occur in Novato Creek. [3]


The Redwood Boulevard bridge over Novato Creek Novato Creek 2.jpg
The Redwood Boulevard bridge over Novato Creek

Novato Creek is spanned by many bridges, including: [7]

See also

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  1. Gudde, Erwin G (2010). California Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 264.
  2. 1 2 U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Novato Creek
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Novato Creek Watershed". Marin County. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
  4. "Novato History Museum". Archived from the original on 2007-12-26. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  5. "Geomorphic Studies by Laurel Collins" . Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  6. Robert A. Leidy (2007). Ecology, Assemblage Structure, Distribution, and Status of Fishes in Streams Tributary to the San Francisco Estuary, California (Report). San Francisco Estuary Institute. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
  7. "National Bridge Inventory Database".