Strawberry Creek is the principal watercourse running through the city of Berkeley, California. Two forks rise in the Berkeley Hills of the California Coast Ranges, and form a confluence at the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. The creek then flows westward across the city to discharge into San Francisco Bay.

The north fork has also been called "Blackberry Creek",[2] a name which has also been applied to another small creek in Berkeley, a portion of which has been daylighted through Thousand Oaks School Park. The canyon in which the north fork of Strawberry Creek runs is called "Blackberry Canyon".

Strawberry Creek serves as a significant marker for the movement of the Hayward Fault. The creek is offset at the mouth of Strawberry Canyon, precisely at the locus of California Memorial Stadium. The filled-in middle forks located in the middle of the UC campus are thought to represent remnants of the former course of the south (main) fork of the creek, which have moved northward by fault action.



Strawberry Creek was the first surface water source for the University and parts of the city of Berkeley. A reservoir was constructed in the late 19th century in Strawberry Canyon, above the site of California Memorial Stadium. The reservoir was replaced in the early 20th century by the system of the East Bay Municipal Utility District whose source reservoir is located in the Sierra Nevada. Construction of the stadium removed a waterfall and culverted the creek in that area.

In the latter half of the 19th century, a road bridge and a railroad trestle both spanned Strawberry Creek in the downtown section at what is now the intersection of Shattuck Avenue and Allston Way. These were torn down and replaced by culverts in April–May 1893. In the process, a small grove of large and ancient oaks in the same locale was cut down.

The creek has been culverted over the years in several other locations, notably in public-works projects during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but has remained open through most of the UC campus, except in the central glade where the two small middle forks were long ago filled in. The south fork of Strawberry Creek has some riparian coast redwood groves on the university campus and is also suitable habitat for the California slender salamander and arboreal salamander.[3]

Strawberry Creek used to be the greatest source on the Berkeley campus to serve an educational, environmental, and recreational purpose. However, the water pollution due to urbanization in the beginning of the twentieth century has degraded the environmental quality of the creek. In 1987, a program dedicated to improve water quality and reintroduce native species was a success. The condition of Strawberry Creek was restored to satisfaction in 1991. Since then, environmental education and restoration programs continues to monitor the quality of the creek.[4]

Reintroduction of native organisms


Strawberry Creek used to have around 13 native fish species, including coldwater salmonids, anadromous steelhead and coho salmon. However, observing fish was difficult due to pollution, decrease in fish population, and poor water quality. Therefore, historical tend data was not available, so the reintroduction data was majorly based on recent studies. Since then, five species have been reintroduced to the creek: three spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), California roach (Lavinias symmetricus), California Hitch (Lavinia exilicauda), Sacramento sucker (Catostomus occidentalis), and the prickly sculpin (Cottus asper).[5]

The attempts of reintroduce native fish were not successful. First, the water quality of the creek was good enough for fish to inhabit. Water quality tests confirmed the water contained a disturbing amount of mercury and coliform, which was dangerous for not only humans, but also animals that contact with the water.[6] The sanity issues were partly caused by improper disposal of garbage and poorly engineered drain system. Secondly, high flow rates, and more importantly, great difference in flow rates is a great concern for reintroduction of fish. High flow rates can be up to 118 times faster than the regular flow rates at the same location. High flow rates was caused by the construction of dams along the creek.[6] Reintroduced fish were not able to inhabit under such circumstances.[7] Finally, the introduction of a non-native fish, Pacifastacus leniusculus, or Crayfish has a negative impact on the native fish population. Crayfish is more aggressive than the native fish species in predation, therefore, has a potential to threaten local fish abundance.[8]


Ivy dominating Strawberry Creek.

Since urbanization, new species were introduced to Strawberry creek. The invasion of exotic plants has endangered the existence of local seedlings. Low biomass of native seedlings is caused by the competition of water in the soil. Exotic species have different rates of growth and evapotranspiration, which changes the soil moisture of the creek. For example, Algerian ivy and English Ivy has taken over the native habitat. They required minimum management and were capable of absorbing pollution, therefore, they were able to spread quickly and dominate the creek area. Ivy has decreased the soil moisture, which even harder for native species to survive.[9]

Daylighting proposals

Efforts to re-open or daylight the creek throughout its natural course through Berkeley continue, and have so far resulted in the establishment of "Strawberry Creek Park"[10] in West Berkeley on the site of what used to be a small freight yard of the Santa Fe Railway. The creek is also open through several private yards in the blocks east of the park, starting just below (west of) Sacramento Street.

In 2010, momentum grew behind a plan to divert water from Strawberry Creek to the surface alongside Center Street. This proposal, backed largely by Ecocity Builders' Richard Register, would not restore the creek's original riparian habitat or path (which lies one block south along Allston Way). Instead, it would incorporate representational elements of the stream into a pedestrian plaza.[11]


At the mouth of Strawberry Creek where it enters San Francisco Bay, the local indigenous people built up a shellmound. Until the end of the 1700s, the Ohlone indigenous people would eat shellfish provided by the creek and pile the empty shells into a mound, signifying a sacred burial site.[12] There was also a small wood of native willows here which was used in the late 19th century as a park. Jacobs' Landing, established early during the California Gold Rush, was the nucleus around which the Ocean View settlement that predated Berkeley was founded. The creek now enters San Francisco Bay from a rectangular concrete culvert mouth, south of University Avenue and west of the I-80/580 freeway, behind Sea Breeze Market and Deli. This area is now part of Eastshore State Park, managed by East Bay Regional Park District. The tide flats at the creek mouth are important shorebird habitat, popular with bird watchers. Friends of Five Creeks,[13] a volunteer group, has worked since 2000 to control invasives and re-establish some native vegetation here.

Land use

University of California, Berkeley has developed the upper Strawberry Creek watershed. Berkeley central campus , including parking lots, open areas, roadways, and Lawrence Berkeley Labs were built in this area. In addition, recreational structures such as Kleeberger Field, Memorial Stadium, and the Hats Recreation Area were constructed in the area. The total urbanized areas in the watershed comprised about 37% of the total area.[14]

Strawberry Creek, Berkeley, by Edwin Deakin

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Strawberry Creek
  2. ^ "1923 Map of East Bay Creeks and Hayward Fault" (map). University of California, Berkeley.
  3. ^ J.Torrey, A.Kratter et al., Environmental Impact Report for the Business Administration Building, University of California, Berkeley, Earth Metrics Incorporated, California State Clearinghouse, April, 1989
  4. ^ Charbonneau, Robert; Resh, Vincent H. (1992). "Strawberry creek on the University of California, Berkeley campus: A case history of urban stream restoration". Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 2 (4): 293–307. doi:10.1002/aqc.3270020402. ISSN 1099-0755.
  5. ^ "Strawberry Creek - Biology | Creeks of UC Berkeley". Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  6. ^ a b "Water quality, bed-sediment quality, and simulation of potential contaminant transport in Foster Creek, Berkeley County, South Carolina, 1991-93". 1996. doi:10.3133/wri954247. hdl:2027/mdp.39015036985177. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Koziol, Deb (2002-02-01). "Restoring Anadromous Fish Habitat in Big Canyon Creek Watershed; Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration in the Nichols Canyon Subwatershed, 2001 Annual Report". doi:10.2172/890700. OSTI 890700. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Rahel, Frank J. (April 1989). "Nest defense and aggressive interactions between a small benthic fish (the johnny darter Etheostoma nigrum) and crayfish". Environmental Biology of Fishes. 24 (4): 301–306. doi:10.1007/bf00001404. ISSN 0378-1909. S2CID 22025028.
  9. ^ Williams, P.L. (1995-03-01). "Features and dimensions of the Hayward Fault Zone in the Strawberry and Blackberry Creek Area, Berkeley, California". doi:10.2172/93943. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ "Strawberry Creek Park". City of Berkeley.
  11. ^ "Bay Area Cities Rediscover the Creeks Under Their Streets". Streetsblog.
  12. ^ Davuluri, Suthri (November 1, 2016). "Take A Stroll Through Strawberry Creek's History". Student Environmental Resource Center. Retrieved 18 February 2020.
  13. ^ "Friends of Five Creeks". Retrieved 2022-02-19.
  14. ^ "3.5 - Land Use | Creeks of UC Berkeley". Retrieved 2021-11-11.

External links