We would ride our bikes and bring a raft or a fishing pole and float around. As I grew up, I would ride dirt bikes and three-wheelers all along the creek and farmland. There were abandoned cars and race tracks.
We would take the levee all the way to Interstate 80 and ride under the causeway. In my high school days we would party at several spots off of Mace Boulevard along the levee. This is all closed off now!
At about age 6, I started attending Camp Putah. I would go almost weekly from ages 6 to 12, and at 13 I was a junior high counselor at Camp Putah.
From South Davis past the Pedrick Road bridge, I knew the creek very well. There were rope swings at many spots, water towers to jump off of and bridges. The best rope swing was a half-mile from where Camp Putah was.
For several years, I would frequent that tree and rope swing. I would climb up it and jump into the creek. They cut it down to a stump maybe around 1988, and for many years thereafter, I would bring friends there. It was probably 25-foot jump down to the water at the stump.
At Camp Putah we would do hikes, archery, crafts and canoeing both up and down the creek. Down the creek was a muskrat dam and rapids would start there. Up the creek was the Pedrick Bridge. I loved the water, so canoeing was one of my favorite activities.
The creek would vary from year to year. Some years it would be low, others high. Also, the release of water from Lake Berryessa would make the flow change sometimes. Going upstream away from I-80 one year it was so low that there were many ponds along the creek and we couldn't paddle to the bridge so we parked the two aluminum canoes.
Crayfish were trapped in the ponds that were created from the low water. We kept on hiking, and as we came back and rounded a corner, there was a redtail fox and several babies feeding; they quickly took off to their den, which was a tree nearby. If we got close to the tree the rest of the summer they would hiss at us! We saw turtles, snakes, fish, birds, spiders, bats and much more wildlife.
At Camp Putah we would learn songs, do crafts and eat lunch on a green parachute. Monday through Wednesday we rode our bikes out in the morning from the UCD intramural fields and returned in the afternoon, but on Thursday was the camp sleepover.
We would start the day as normal but after lunch we would ride to the Rec Pool, or in later years Emerson Pool, then cook dinner at the park near Emerson. Then we would ride our bikes back out to Putah Creek for the campfire. Our parents would gather around the fire pit and watch us perform skits and songs.
The next activity was a night hike just after dark. There was a legend about a man called "the hermit" that was circulated at the camp. So on this night hike, it was always a mission to see the hermit. Sometimes he would appear and sometimes not! Normally he would be on the other side of the creek with barking dogs.
After breakfast the next morning was time for canoe wars! We would make hundreds of water balloons and take the canoes to the creek. Each would load up and go in a different direction up or down the creek, then turn back and go head-on toward each other, splashing, throwing balloons and attempting to sink the other canoe. Normally both would get tipped and we would all swim to shore with the canoe for the next set of kids to do the same thing.
There were many forts along the creek. We learned about all the different types of plants, like bamboo and tule, oak trees, cottonwood.
Just two weeks ago, I took my kids (ages 10 and 12) there and we hiked the creek. I showed them and my wife the trail along the creek which nowadays does not go as close to the water.
Jon Elliott lives in Morro Bay, where he owns Mike's Barber Shop. His brother and family still live in Davis, and he visits a few times a year.