Over a barrel


In May and June of this year, just before taking off for Denmark, I made a couple of interesting hikes to Drawbridge. My previous approaches to Drawbridge came from the Alviso side with a hike northward along the salt pond levees. On these more recent hikes I used a trailhead in Fremont near the Warm Springs site and hiked southward. This was my first real exposure to the Warm Springs area and it is really fabulous.

Salt Ponds A22 and A23

An aerial view showing Salt Ponds A23 and A22 in a drained state (they often seem to be drained). I have noted my hike route as a transparent purplish line. There were two major springs visible along the route (green circles) and a scattering of small hummaocks or mounds containing pairs of sunken barrels (blue squares). Aerial view retrieved on Nov. 12, 2007 from website maps.google.com.

As I hiked on the levees toward Drawbridge and past Salt Ponds A23 and A22, I flew the kite and took general aerial views of the landscape. Salt Pond A23 was empty at the time and even from the ground it was easy to pick out the traces of many structures and earthworks in the pond’s bottom. Generally speaking these were small in scale and irregular in shape suggesting that they predated the formation of the larger Salt Pond A23.

View to the west

A view of Salt Pond A23 (drained) toward the west. One of the hummocks is visible in the foreground.

On later examination of my aerial photographs I noticed that Salt Pond A23 is filled with many small mounds. From the radial pattern of scrapes surrounding each mound it seems as though they were constructed by crudely pulling earth toward the center of the mound. At the apex of each shallow mounds is a pair of barrel-like structures made of planks sunk into the ground. Some of these have a bit of metal hardware at their top.


Closer view of a typical hummock with sunken barrels.

I am really curious about these mounds, and about the history of this area before the large Salt Pond A23 impoundment. Are the mounds the remnants of some form of early salt making process or something else altogether? When were they built and used? Are they related to the two large springs flowing in this area?

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