No. 12: Dimond Canyon, El Centro Avenue Gate

A week of rain leaves Sausal Creek at full flood.

A week of rain leaves Sausal Creek at full flood.

When winter rains have turned Sausal Creek from a shy trickle to a boisterous flood, this trail becomes an appealing challenge. You can lengthen your walk by starting at the west end of Dimond Park, which contains two lovely redwood picnic groves and a number of other large, beautiful trees. Follow the creek past Lions Swimming Pool, through the playground and up a narrow trail behind the toddler swing set that takes you to El Centro Avenue and the start of the Canyon Trail proper.

Initially, your path is broad and well maintained, with small yellow and red flags marking where the Friends of Sausal Creek and Oakland High School biology classes are doing native plant restoration. Clumps of horsetails and cow parsnips have replaced the Himalayan blackberries and Algerian ivy that used to choke the hillsides.

Before too long, the trail narrows to a single track and you are forced to pick your way carefully. A newish sign post points to where, if the water were not so wild, it would be possible to ford the creek and continue along a goodish trail on the north bank. But for right now, you must keep to the the south bank, where a fallen tree is forcing the creek to cut a new path for itself that is close to undermining the trail.

If you keep going, you will see the water cascade down a series of concrete steps beneath the arch of the Leimert Avenue Bridge, far overhead. Old maps show the trail continuing in the creekbed past the bridge, but a dense growth of bushes now make that a difficult passage even when the water is low. Anyone not wearing a serious pair of boots and a sturdy jacket will want to turn around at the concrete flume just past the bridge.

Getting there: Dimond Park is just east of the bus transit hub at Fruitvale Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard. There is also limited on-street parking at the El Centro entrance to the canyon.

Cool stuff nearby: There are a number of cafes and restaurants around the transit hub, including La Farine Bakery. If your dog enjoyed the creek a little too much, you can give it a bath at Paws and Claws natural pet food store.

More information: Guide to East Bay Creeks has a lovely, if somewhat outdated, description of the trail and its history.

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