Sausal Creek, 3.1 miles (5.0 km) long, is one of the principal watercourses in Oakland, California. The north fork of the creek, Shephard Creek also known as Shepherd Creek, begins in the hills above Oakland, running down Shepherd Canyon. The south fork, also known as Palo Seco Creek, also begins in the hills, and runs down Palo Seco Canyon to a confluence with the north fork in the linear valley where the Montclair district is situated. The creek then cuts through the shutter ridge which defines the linear valley (formed by the Hayward Fault), and runs down to the flatlands through Dimond Canyon, where it passes under historic Leimert Bridge. It then runs southwest through the San Antonio district to empty into the Oakland Estuary. The creek is mostly open in the hills section, and runs in culverts as it approaches the bay.
The creek derives its name from the Spanish word for willow grove (sausal). Native arroyo willows were once common along its banks. Efforts are underway to restore the willows and the creek itself.
The first inhabitants of the Sausal Creek watershed where the Huchiun or Yrgin tribelets of the Ohlone people. They harvested acorns, buckeyes and other foodstuffs at a time when enormous live oaks, alders, willows, and big-leaf maples grew on the creek's banks in what is now downtown Oakland, California. Also, large Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) grew on the ridge where Skyline Boulevard now runs.
Sausal Creek was named Arroyo del Bosque by Father Juan Crespí during the Pedro Fages Expedition in 1772. The creek was also known as Fruitvale Creek, when the settlement of Fruitvale was established in 1856 when Quaker nurseryman Henderson Luelling, planted hundreds of cherry trees along Sausal Creek, and named the area “Fruit Vale”. Later the Sausal watershed became part of the Rancho San Antonio land grant to Sergeant Luis Maria Peralta in 1820. By 1841 Peralta's descendants were selling the giant redwoods and by 1850 there were at least ten sawmills operating in the watershed. One casualty of the lumber business, the Blossom Rock Tree, had a trunk diameter of 33.5 feet and was over 300 feet tall. It was so named as sailors in the Bay sighted it as a navigational aids that helped them avoid an underwater hazardous rock.
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