Bob Graham, from Sacramento, submitted the following in response to Nancy Ballot’s recent post “Calaveras, River of Skulls. What’s in a name?”. To be sure, the Calaveras is not what is once was, yet perhaps with a little love we can bring it a little closer to the meandering “arroyo” in a field of majestic oaks and flowering plants, similar to Caswell Park. – Jeremy

John Charles Fremont, March 26, 1844:

“We halted at the Arroyo de las Calaveras, (Skull creek,) a tributary to the San Joaquin–the previous two streams entering the bay between the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. This place is beautiful, with open groves of oak, and a grassy sward beneath, with many plants in bloom, some varieties of which seem to love the shade of the trees, and grow there in close small fields. Near the river, and replacing the grass, are great quantities of ammole, (soap plant,) the leaves of which are used in California for making, among other things, mats for saddle-cloths. A vine with a small white flower, (melothria?) called here la yerba buena, and which, from its abundance, gives name to an island and town in the bay, was to-day very frequent on our road–sometimes running on the ground or climbing the trees.”

Fremont’s determined latitude of 38 02 48 places him where Pezzi Road crosses the river about 2 miles east of Morada. But on the same date in 2003, the Calaveras River was bone-dry, looking like nothing more than a Reclamation District drainage ditch. There are still a few oak trees, but Frémont’s soap plant and yerba buena have given way to the now ubiquitous ditch pests–blackberry vines, stink weed, and old tires, pallets, and other discarded trash.

Here’s a Google Map of where Pezzi Road crosses the Calaveras: