GUEST BLOGGER: Janice Kelley

This Special Place at the Lower American River

Janice Kelley

Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley

Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley

Janice Kelley earned her Master of Science degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration at California State University, Sacramento, in 2013. She works with land trusts, conservancies, parks and open spaces, historic sites and museums, organized groups, schools, and the public to inspire active participation in the world and build meaningful story connections and interpretive programs one voice at a time. Kelley collaborates with clients to help them define the stories they want to share with stakeholders, viewers, visitors, and other key audiences, capturing a sense of place and creating memorable experiences to inspire individuals to build lasting connections between people, places, and wildlife. Her book, Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge consists of 75 first person narratives and more than 100 scenic photographs featuring stories and photographs of two fall salmon runs, wildlife antics, the impact of 2017 winter floods on wildlife and habitat, spectacular sunrises, and the 2017 solar eclipse. It is available through Amazon.

Read Janice’s blogs, “Mornings on Fair Oaks Bridge” and learn more about her book, by the same name at

Walking along the American River near Fair Oaks Bridge to write, take photos and share these experiences is as much as a healing journey and a reconnection to nature, as it is a time of quiet observation. The river is my place of peace and joy to share as a gift. So many quiet mornings I see no wildlife flying in, swimming or diving. The river flows swiftly and deep. I need to look for other ways to tell the story of this beautiful place hidden away from busy urban spaces.

Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley

Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley

I believe this sense of peace is a shared feeling for many other visitors who stop on Fair Oaks Bridge to look, reflect and photograph. I see cars park on the road leading to the boat ramp. I see the drivers sit inside and enjoy the scenic views. I see visitors resting on the bench alongside that road facing Fair Oaks Bluff to admire the view.

I am fascinated by the changing patterns of clouds in the sky, and how they filter the sunlight to create vibrant colors of pinks, blues, gold and flaming orange.

I find joy in watching the rhythm of a duck’s webbed feet paddle underwater. I love watching its body sway back and forth as it walks up the boat ramp.

I breathe easily and breathe in deeply. I listen to the sounds of birds, embrace the sweet scent of flowers in bloom, and feel a cool breeze against my skin.

I think of the salmon’s enduring struggle as they swim upstream to spawn. I watch the antics of wildlife as they try to catch a salmon as it swims past them. They guard their dead salmon as a treasure to assure no one steals their feast.

I reflect on its history –A critical resource close to the heart of California’s Gold Rush. I remember the history of seasonal flooding long before Folsom Dam was ever built. I remember the Maidu Indian tribes who lived in this region and into the Sierra Nevada for thousands of years before the Mexican Land Grant of Rancho San Juan that yielded to early settlements. The settlers who established Fair Oaks Agricultural Colony by purchasing small farms. Fair Oaks was one of many emerging farm communities in outlying areas of the City of Sacramento.

I recognize all the people who work tirelessly to manage a wild river so it can remain a stable habitat for wildlife who make their home here. This river is also a place for anyone to ride, walk, enjoy and become connected with the outdoor world – and Sacramento’s past, present and future prosperity.

At times when I have no words, I feel grateful. Voicing my gratitude for the beautiful spring day, warm weather and the beauty that surrounds me inspires the words to flow.

I enjoy standing under partially cloudy skies and experiencing magnificent scenic views of the American River corridor even when the river seems empty. I see a brilliant ball of sunlight shining through clouds – and sometimes see no sun at all.

I savor the variety of trees in all their twisted shapes and sizes, sweet bird songs, green grasses and leaves. I feel grateful for the pale green moss that hugs tree trunks along the river trail. I notice weeds spreading everywhere boasting their own spiny purple flowers. I notice the river rocks that line the trails – large, small, smooth round, jagged, curved and straight. I listen to the haunting call of a morning dove, the twitters and caws of other birds hidden in the trees that surround me. I enjoy the gentle curves and slopes of the dirt trail enclosed in greenery to create a walk with character, interest and a bit of mystery.

I stop to enjoy the abundant clusters of deep green leaves growing on mature oak trees. I marvel at the expansive oak tree canopy stretching its curving branches away from its central trunk as they reach for sunlight.

I see trails that crisscross leading deep into the American River Parkway – some trails lead to the river. Other trails lead to hidden concrete structures overgrown with ivy and often missed. I find secret picnic alcoves and islands where waterfowl rest and play. One day I found a small amphitheater long ago forgotten.

These peaceful moments of experience and the beauty of this scene many often pass by quickly. These moments strung together form the string of pearls of our lifetime. Pearls displaying sparkle and joy, just as the river sparkles with the morning sun and beads of water shine on a duck’s back.

Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley

Photo courtesy of Janice Kelley