Saturday, May 3, 2014

Old Bautista Creek Channel East and West side

Take special note to scroll all the way to the bottom here and click on the link and bookmark the incredible interactive Wetlands Inventory Mapper tool
Eastern Channel of Bautista Creek, Hemet California
Image: Google Earth
These pictures from Google Earth of the original Bautista Creek bed channel are no longer flowing with water as the engineers looking out for human economic agricultural ventures and interests constructed a concrete flood control ditch which runs almost directly north to Valle Vista center just west of Fremont Street. Valle Vista has always seemed to be attributed to the area where Anza, Font, Garc├Ęs, Diaz and the rest of the people who accompanied the explorers came out onto the plain at the San Jacino River just north of Valle Vista. This doesn't seem logical given the mention in the journals of a group of hills where they made camp and the route of Bautista Creek where it split into two channels,  both of which old creek channel bed locations can be seen and followed today. The picture above is looking south from Hwy 74 (Florida Avenue) towards the direction of Bautista Canyon and the picture on the bottom is a complete pan around looking north towards the direction of Park Hill and the city of San Jacinto beyond.

Image: Google Earth

The animation to the right beautifully illustrates the progressive development of a stream channel. The eastern branch of Bautista Creek channel noted by Fray Pedro Font is the younger of the two channels he referenced. On maps even today this eastern channel I've noted above from Google Earth is still referred to as Bautista Wash. It is deeply channeled into the earth and has not had the time to softly erode into a more gradual sloping bank scenario like it's partner to the west of Park Hill which I'll show in a minute. Stage #1 in the graphic depicts some disruption from the main Bautista Channel upstream, perhaps a flooding event carrying a debris load of boulders and tree trunks along with branches and other material to form a slight partial diversion in the stream course creating a second branch on a more northerly route towards the San Jacinto River's main channel. I highly doubt the eastern stream course was so deeply eroded as when Anza and his party came through here. What later created the excessive deeply eroded gash in the landscape was caused by Human agrarian activities, first over grazing and partial removal of the streamside riparian vegetation and later more farming of the landscape through total clearance to the ground and replacing the native vegetation with crops, in this case 100s of acres of orchards in the southeastern part of Hemet Valley. More stripped land meant more unrestricted runoff and deeper channeling. Notice another graphic illustration below which shows the consequences of streamside vegetation removal versus Agricultural replacement next to stream channels. 

Image: Iowa State University
"Streambank stabilization is important to a riparian system. Streambanks in healthy riparian systems are held together by tree roots and, to a lesser extent, by deep roots of prairie grasses. Over time, all streams "meander" or cut back and forth across a floodplain. During this process, the stream banks tend to erode which is a major source of sediment. If all the vegetation on a streambank is removed and replaced with crops or grazing livestock, the streambank cutting process can accelerate." 
The process of streambank erosion and acceleration is evidently what happened in the younger channel which is known as Bautista Wash, but it is an unnatural channel in the sense that it's deep cut into the Bajada (Alluvial Fan)  and eventually the flattened out valley floor downstream is very unnatural. 100+ years of irresponsible agricultural practices forcing the streambed to do what humans wanted created the mess in the first place. The only permanent solution was the eventual construction further east and north of the concrete channel that exists today. Below is an example of deeply cut erosion created by terrible agricultural practices which farm crops right up to the very edge of the channel. Excessive water runoff as opposed to water percolation and infiltration into the soil has allowed this situation to go from bad to worse. This is what happened in eastern Hemet Valley, though the average person who lives there no doubt is oblivious to this fact. Such ignorance which is the cause of such damaging practices are also conducted on countless small scale backcountry Ranchettes from various real estate ventures or schemes in most rural areas. Damage on one property by a careless out of touch weekend landowner may not seem serious, but when you 1 X 1000s, it's another catastrophe. You would think people who purchase their dream retirement property would care more, but they don't and for no other reason than ignorance. To bad land management education and custodianship certificates aren't a requirement prior to raw acreage purchase and real estate acquisition. Cities are bad enough with irresponsible care for landscape with chemicals which runoff into storm drains which dump into riparian habitats, but the backcountry is the last line of existence for such natural systems. Unfortunately, people by their very nature resent authority telling them what to do even if it's for their own benefits and general welfare of their surrounding fellow man, otherwise known as their Neighbours.

An unnatural cut through an agricultural landscape
This photograph below here is a good comparison to the example above. This channel taken from Google Earth is the younger channel that Fray (Friar) Pedro Font referenced in his 1776 journal which broke off from the main channel of Bautista creek which went in a more westward direction. Of course in this updated visual today, all manner of housing and commercial infrastructure exists there now as compared to when only farming existed several decades back. The channel really doesn't flow with much water today, mainly used for gardening by property owners or as you can see some small golf putting greens. But basically identical to the unnatural eroded channel through farm fields above which is alluvial soil.
Source Image is Google Earth
 This location is between Hemet on the left and Valle Vist on the right side. It is north of Florida Avenue and angling towaards Park Hill's east side and San Jacinto to the north.
Western branch of Bautista Creek runs along west edge of Park Hill

Image: Google Earth

This is the western edge of the old Toyota of Hemet Store looking east to west towards the next stoplight at Columbia Street. Notice how the road here drops in elevation which is unique and stands out in the otherwise flat valley floor. This is Florida Avenue (Hwy 74) looking west.

Image: Google Earth

This is close to the bottom of the ancient wash where the western channel flank of Bautista Creek no doubt ran it's course for centuries, longer than the eastern flank. The flood zone here is very wide indicating many centuries of flood formation by a meandering riparian streambed, created by riparian woodlands along with vegetation debris jams which would have gradually over time allowed for the wider softer and more gradual elevation dip in the floodplain as opposed to the younger deeper channel which ran to the east closer to Valle Vista. Hemet Car Wash and the old Honda of Hemet store are here on the left.

Image: Google Earth

This is the ditch next to the Vagabond Inn which was dug after so many flooding events on this portion of Florida Avenue (Hwy 74). The water actually runs off Florida and through the front Driveway into the ditch which is on the west side. I seem to remember this place being flooded in the past and why not ? It was built at the very very bottom & center of an ancient flood plain's creekbed. The old Honda of Hemet and Hemet Car wash are across the street and I remember a lake forming just south of the Honda store and taking in half of their back lot parking space where new cars & Customer Service vehicles were parked. They had to be moved. I know because they were one of my clients when I was in Automotive restoration work.

Image: Google Earth
This image above is from Columbia Street looking east on Florida Avenue (Hwy 74) as you would be driving up towards Idyllwild California which you see in the distance up in the San Jacinto Mountains. The street here begins to drop in gradient elevation from the previous several miles of western Hemet which was extremely flat valley floor to this point. Notice the Vagabond Inn on the left and the back of old Hemet Honda which is now Diamond Valley Honda at the Auto Mall on Warren Ave west Hemet. All of this land would have been the once bottomland of the old Bautista Alluvial floodplain wash of it's far western flank. 

Image: Google Earth

This is heading north from Florida Avenue on Columbia  Street in the direction of the city of San Jacinto California. Notice the slight down hill in elevation in the flat landscape here also. At the bottom point below is a drainage culvert which collects all water and sends it into a large flood percolation pond. Such geographical constructs are now a common feature here in the valley floor as there is simply nowhere for water to go without major flooding. 

Image: Google Earth
Once again, the yellow pins represent the still existing wide channel as indicated by the geography on the ground and the blue pins basically aligning up pretty much where the main central stream bed of the western branch of Bautista Creek would have been guided along towards the San Jacinto river. Notice the flood control percolation basin on the left. Again these constructs are everywhere now. There is another flood control construction plan which I've added below which indicates where major flooding occurs and where improvements need to be made. Blue drainage ditch lines are already existing and the red lines are proposals for newer concrete lines drainage ditches. Notice on the map the southern border near the south and west of Park Hill which I have described above which is flood prone ? Notice how it extends further southeast towards the mouth of the Bautista Canyon Floodplain ? At the bottom of that map in the lower righthand corner is a natural line of boulder strewn low hills which act as a natural barrier for Bautista Creek to head directly west into southern Hemet and towards Winchester. Below I'll show the Google image verifying this streambed directing natural barrier.

Animated Image Map: Press Enterpise

SAN JACINTO: Council to consider updating drainage facilities plan

Once again, make comparisons between the flood control plan map and the Google Earth images of the same areas where I have place the Yellow Pins for the wash border outlines which indicate a rather wide floodplain for the western flank of Bautista Creek compared to the Eastern branch of the Creek which is still visible, but narrow and deep. I have indicated the mountains a low chain of hills which would have been a natural directional barrier for the surrounding sloping landscape to encourage a more northwesterly direction towards Park Hill as opposed to straight shot west towards Hemet-Ryan Airport & the town of Winchester California. I also indicated two Mansion home sites on a line of small hills with red symbols, the one being the former Jack Gosch residence which was purchased by his General Manager at his Ford Dealership back in late 1980s and below that his Son Marc Gosch's residence. Now both of these guys may have sold out and moved, but that's where things were when I left there in 2001. Notice Stetson Ave and Hemet High School which I have place there for reference points. The hills and topography again reveal where the original older creek bed would have been directed in a more northwesterly direction.

Image: Google Earth

Image: Fairfax County Virginia
There is really not much more to say about this western flank other than I posted these details for folks who are truly interested in the actual history of the area and how the natural world was  put together and observed first hand by the first Spanish Explorers who discovered and wrote about it. The softer gradual wider dip in the flat valley floor here at the Hemet Car Wash reveals the many centuries of natural stream channel design and would fall into the fifth table of stabilization  category in the chart or graph on the right. I understand there is a tendency to fairytale a lot of things these days when it comes to scientific speculation influenced by a preconception of personal priori or bias, but that's not what I have done here. Only an inspection on the ground can prove otherwise. I am more interested in the facts as I have been obsessed with them for almost 3 decades. Take it or leave it. This is why the scientific discipline we call  Biomimetics or Biomimcry which purposes to replicate rather than force natural channel design in seeking to restore the disturbed stream to emulate a more natural stable channel. Stream bank erosion is a natural process, but can be accelerated by human impacts as is evidenced around the globe. When Humans build roads, buildings, and parking lots, they increase impervious surfaces, and more runoff rushes into the streams or river channels when it rains instead of soaking into the landscape. Stream banks are then eroded and channels are deepened and widened. Tree roots are exposed and the incising stream channel becomes disconnected from its floodplains. Stream buffer zones are impacted, trees fall and die, and without them soil is left to erode away. Over time, a new deeper and wider channel will form, and the stream vegetation will recover, but not before rain carries away huge amounts of sediment.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced completion of the National Wetlands Database and Interactive Mapping Tool, to coincide with American Wetlands Month, which began May 1, 2014. This tool is really kool for those with a keen interest for wetlands map details and much appreciation should truly go to those who put the hard work into the project. Here is a quote from the site:
 "The Wetlands Inventory Mapper has digitally mapped and made publicly [sic] available wetlands in the lower 48 states, Hawaii and dependent territories, as well as 35 % of Alaska."
Fish & Wildlife Service releases wetlands database and mapping tool
 Some Further References of local Reading Interest
Jack Gosch (1928 - 2013) Obituary

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