Arcade Creek History
Bits and pieces from a Science Center Publication of 1984, and other memories.
Salmon and Steelhead Observed in Arcade Creek
Arcade Creek Management Plan 2003 This plan contains information about the creek’s conditions in 2003. It identifies key watershed management issues and outlines watershed enhancement strategies in the areas of flood protection, water quality, habitat and recreation.
Creek Corridor Trail Project Feasibility Report (Accepted by the Citrus Heights City Council on March 27, 2014) This report takes a comprehensive approach to potential trail locations. Contains detailed segment descriptions of the feasibility of constructing trails along Arcade, Brooktree and Cripple Creeks in Citrus Heights.
Arcade Creek has the largest drainage basin of all the local streams. It is 16.2 miles long and its basin area is about 19,000 acres or 29.7 square miles. It flows from Orangevale, northeast of Greenback Lane and Kenneth Avenue to the Sacramento River via the Natomas East Main Drainage Canal.
The creek is still partially bordered with blue interior and valley oaks. There are scattered places with Fremont Cottonwood, small willows and Oregon Ash. Because of the natural and open spaces, native vegetation in some areas persists, providing habitat for wildlife. Once this habitat was abundant; today it is quickly vanishing because of bordering land development.
Long ago, 6000-3000 BC, people of the Early Horizon period came to live near Arcade Creek and its surrounding area. These were the seed gatherers. At a mound site near the Science Center, now the Discovery Museum Learning Center, erosion of the creek revealed an artifact-bearing layer under 9 feet of soil. Seventy five pieces were recovered which included cores and flakes of handstones, mortar and pestles, cobble-choppers, hammer-stones and projectile points. This site is classified as one of the most important in the United States.
Evidence of native peoples has also been found along this park section of Arcade Creek. As excavation took place for swimming pools in Cameron Ranch, some artifacts were recovered. There was a sweat house at the intersection of Walnut and Winding Way, one reason there might be so many buckeye trees there.
About 3000 years ago the Maidu, or Southern Nisenan settled in this area. Early man found the creek water clean and full of fish, and the surrounding plants were a good source for seed eating. The oak trees provided the staple acorn, and small game provided a bounty of food. Women often used digging sticks to gather bulbs – a habit which gave rise to the name Digger Indians – now considered a derogatory term.
During the 1800s, Arcade Creek was included in some of the northernmost Mexican land grants in California. Governor Manuel Micheltorena, Captain John Sutter’s old friend, gave 44,000 acres to Elijah Grimes. Grimes called it the Rancho del Paso because it was on the road to the pass of the American River through the Sierra. With the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad, Arcade Creek became a central focal point and even acquired national fame. To build a railway through the mountains was more difficult and more expensive than over the Sacramento Valley plain. Thus when the Pacific Railroad Act was revised on July 2nd, 1864, the subsidy was adjusted. The Central Pacific would receive $16,000 for each mile built in the valley and $48,000 for each mile of the estimated 150 miles of rugged mountain terrain separating California from Nevada.
Charles Crocker, supervisor of the actual construction, took the first State Geologist, Josiah Whitney, for a long ride along Arcade Creek. It was here, seven miles from Sacramento, that Crocker showed him engineer Theodore Judah’s chart which showed a gentle rise from the creek area to the peaks of the Sierra. Crocker asked Whitney where the beginning of the mountains should be located. Whitney replied, “Well, the true base is the Sacramento River, but for the purpose of this bill, Arcade Creek is as fair a place as any.”
In Washington DC, A. A. Sergeant, the Central Pacific’s ambassador showed a geological map to the House of Representatives. It showed the east bank of Arcade Creek as mostly composed of red podzolic earth like that of the Sierra. On the opposite bank, it showed the dark soil of the Sacramento River flood plain.
President Lincoln signed the bill increasing the subsidy giving the “Big Four”, Crocker, Standford, Huntington and Hopkins, an increase of $470,000 profit. Lincoln was surely aware that the Sierra did not start at Haggin Oaks golf course, but he was wise enough to know what linking California’s riches to the east would mean to the government during the Civil War. Getting the railroad built was the motivating factor.
In the early 1900s, salmon came to spawn in Arcade Creek. There were still swimming holes 6-7 feet deep in the 1950s. Today, Arcade Creek is a very different place. Water flowing into the creek from storm drains causes the creek to swell and flood in the winter and to hold many gallons of street gutter run off water in the summer. But along the creek’s banks and in the high branches of the oaks and other trees, wildlife still finds a home. Also these green spaces offer neighbors a peaceful retreat and a pleasant place for quiet recreation.
See the links below to delve deeper into the history of Arcade Creek
Some maps from the early 1900’s
Rancho Del Paso – 1862 to 1910 A one-page article by Cheryl Anne Stapp
North Sacramento by V. Ehrenreich-Risner. A book available for purchase, includes pictures of creekside huts, and remnants of villages where indigenous people once lived. The remains were present as late as the 1920s, or so.