My Sycamore Canyon

Second Saturdays: Environmental Health

December’s Second Saturday event was themed Environmental Health and Pollution Clean Up.  Visitors were invited to learn about our environment, view and take an active role in demonstrations, and participate in painting and recycled paper making. Graduate and Post Graduate students from the University of California Riverside (UCR) presented information and demonstrations on air quality and combustion; water quality and aquifers; the Pacific Ocean gyre; and bacteria.

Pollution often seems like an overwhelming problem that our world faces but small steps taken by us all can make a difference.  Some changes include developing good conservative habits, carpooling, and using reusable items to limit our consumption of disposable goods.  To give visitors a head start on California’s switch over from plastic disposable bags to reusable ones, the center provided visitors with canvas bags and paint to decorate them.  The result was an enjoyable afternoon and in the future less disposable bags in landfills!

Please come out and join us on our next Second Saturday event in January 2015 as we talk about animal tracks!

The nature center would like to thank its volunteers that helped to make this event successful!

Keeping your park beautiful

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is under the dedicated care of the City of Riverside’s department of Parks and Recreation staff.

Though the goal is to have as little human impact on the local habitat as possible, Parks and Rec regularly oversees the area to ensure visitors have the best experience possible. In order to keep the park safe, functional, and looking its best, the department does everything from trail maintenance and trash pick up, to drain clearing and flood damage control.

The next time you see a city employee at the park, thank them for their hard work!  Their dedication is what keeps our park useable and looking nice.

Second Saturdays: Native Plants

The November Second Saturdays event was an enjoyable afternoon full of native plant education, visitor participation, and planting!  Visitors were welcome to attend this free event where they learned what plants are good for the area, received water wise tips for their gardens, and were taught seed bomb assembly.

Be sure to visit the events  page and calendar for more Second Saturdays and other educational events and notices!


Volunteer Day suC.C.C.ess!

On Saturday October 18, 2014 the City of Riverside’s Parks & Recreation department joined together with the California Conservation Corps (C.C.C.) for a day of park upkeep and maintenance.  The event was open to the public and a call was made to any volunteers from the surrounding community to come out and aid the city and the C’s in their endeavors to maintain the park. Called C.C.C. Volunteer Day, the event would begin at 8am for registration followed by a 9am speech by Assemblyman Jose Medina before breakfast and the work began.

The day was a huge success!  Volunteers, City of Riverside Parks & Rec, and the C’s all came together to help maintain the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park in a fun and energetic day.  During registration all attendees were divided into 4 groups.  Each group rotated through stations that included the nature center and drought and animal information; planting and weeding; trash pick up and recycling; and trail maintenance.  By the end of the day over 80 native plants were planted around the nature center and on a hill to beautify the location and to help with erosion.

The Ameal Moore Nature Center would like to thank all workers and volunteers for their time and effort in helping to maintain and grow the park.  Your participation, time, and care is appreciated and applauded.  If you are interested in the California Conservation Corps you can find more information HERE.  More images of the day can be found at our image gallery HERE and on our Facebook page HERE.

Fossil Days

Did you know that October 17, 2014 was National Fossil Day?  In celebration, the nature center hosted a fossil dig!  Visitors  were encouraged to come in and paint a plaster fossil that they could dig up from our mini dig site.  Visitors of all ages had fun digging and searching for megalodon teeth and trilobite fossils before decorating them.

Second Grand Opening & Extended Hours

The Ameal Moore Nature Center at the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park will be celebrating its extended Fall hours (Wednesdays-Sundays 9am-5pm)!  Join us on Wednesday October 8, 2014 from 9am-5pm as we celebrate with a special live broadcast showing of Smithsonian Science How webcasts!  The nature center will continue to broadcast live webcasts from the Smithsonian throughout the year.  Wednesday’s webcast, “Mass Extinction: Solving the Dinosaur Mystery,” will be followed by family crafts at both the nature center and the museum.

Visitor Stories: Animal Tracks

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is located in Riverside, CA.  Because the park has wildlife that roams freely, the residents in the surrounding area regularly have critter sightings.   Many visitors have come into the nature center with stories of bobcats, coyotes, and various other animals being in their yards, on their doorsteps, patios, or in their houses.  Dave and Kathy Lehman have been enjoying the park for years and recently shared a discovery they made with the staff at the Ameal Moore Nature Center.

One morning after some water had washed sand into their backyard the Lehmans looked out and noticed some animal tracks.  Dave and Kathy are accustomed to the wildlife and were not surprised to find animal tracks.  Taking a closer look, their initial assessment was that they were from a bobcat.

Deciding to take a plaster cast of the prints, the Lehmans provided the center with these photos.  Mixing plaster of paris, they filled the prints and then allowed them to set and dry.  Once they were dry, the plaster prints were removed and cleaned, leaving the clear impression of animal tracks.  Their theory is that after the water had washed through their yard the animal came by and waited for the gophers to pop up out of the ground for a quick and easy meal.  Inspection by a curator at the Riverside Metropolitan Museum revealed the prints to most likely have come from a canine.

Animal tracking is an excellent way to determine what sorts of critters live in your area or might be walking through your property.  Historically used to hunt food, or to identify predators, animal tracking today is something both amateurs and professionals in various fields of study use to learn more about their surroundings.  If you come to the park there is a chance you’ll see evidence of the various animals that call the park home.  Making casts of prints you find on your own property is a fun activity to engage learners of all ages and encourage them to observe the natural world more closely.

The nature center would like to thank Dave and Kathy for their great story and images and would also like to remind residents near the park to keep an eye on their pets as the wildlife does tend to enter backyards.

Snake Safety

The Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park is home to many critters, one of which is the Red diamond rattlesnake.  Some visitors become scared, upset, uncertain, or sometimes leave the park when they hear this news.  The Ameal Moore Nature Center recognizes your concerns for safety and would like to provide a few words on snakes in the park.

Snakes are found in many parts of the world and most snakes are not poisonous. The ones that are use their venom for hunting more than protection and are not interested in constant attempts to harm humans.  Rattlesnakes are unique to the Americas, and the ‘rattles’ on their tails may sometimes signal their presence when you are too near.  Red diamond rattlesnakes are venomous, but with these answers to frequently asked questions and safety tips, you can stay safe.

FAQ by visitors to the nature center:

  • Q: I’m afraid of snakes. Will they chase me?
    A: No, the snakes will not chase you.  They want to be left alone as much as you want them to leave you alone.
  • Q: Will I die if I’m bitten? 
    A: There is a good chance that an adult Red diamond rattlesnake will give you a ‘dry’ bite- meaning there is no venom in it.  Their goal is not to kill you (as you are far too big for them to eat) but to make you leave them alone and or to save their own lives.  However, venom or no, it is important to remember that a snake will bite if it feels threatened.  It is therefore very important to not agitate any snake you see and to avoid disturbing all wildlife.
  • Q: How do I not agitate snakes?
    A: Leave them alone. Do not approach them, touch them, or attempt to pick them up. Please do not grab them by the tails to try to get a picture of them or to prevent them from leaving. Whether the snake is poisonous or not, it is best to leave them be.
  • Q: How do I avoid snakes completely?
    A: Because the park’s wildlife roams freely, there is always the possibility you will encounter a snake. However, to limit this possibility, visitors should stick to wide, established trails. Especially early and late in the day.  Visitors should not stick their hands in holes or crevasses in rocks and should also avoid walking in bushy areas or areas of tall grass.
  • Q: What if I do come across a rattlesnake?
    A: Take two large steps back.  The safest place to be when there is a rattlesnake nearby is outside of its strike range.  Once you are a safe distance away, choose a different route to continue your hike.
  • Q: What if I find a snakeskin or a dead snake? Is it all right for me to pick that up?
    A: No, please do not pick up and attempt to take anything out of the park or bring it into the nature center.  All inhabitants of the park are protected and we ask that what you find in the park (other than garbage which we appreciate you throwing away or reporting) stays in the park. That includes their parts as well (feathers, furs, skins, etc.).

Safety tips to remember:

  • AVOID: If you see a snake, avoid it.  Give any snakes on trails the right of way.  If you cannot go around it (we urge visitors to stay on the paths for safety and to preserve the park by minimizing the human footprint- however, if you need to avoid a snake, please do so), turn around and walk away.  Do not attempt to pick a snake up or grab it by the tail! Please remember, these are not pets. If you see a snake off the path that is not rattling at you do not approach it! This does not mean that the snake is dead. Snakes sleep with their eyes ‘open’ and the snake may simply be sleeping. It is also important that you keep your pets on a leash to avoid any unfortunate accidents.
  • LISTEN: You may not always immediately see a rattlesnake- sometimes you will hear it first.  The center urges visitors to listen and pay attention to their surrounds.  It is a good idea to not listen to music loudly when in the park so that you will be able to hear any warning rattles.  But remember, not all rattlesnakes will rattle at you, and not all snakes have rattles, so keep your eyes open for them.
  • WATCH: Watch where you walk and where you put your hands.  Do not stick your hands in any crevasses between rocks or down any holes.
  • TEACH: Teach others in your visiting party to be aware of the snakes.  If you have children with you, make sure you keep them close to you and teach them snake safety.  Some visitors think that because they handle their domesticated pet snakes at home that they can also handle the wild ones in the park. Again, these are not pets and it is important to teach those with you that fact.
  • TOGETHER: In case of accident it is always a good idea to hike the trails with a friend.  The nature center is currently closed on weekdays.  If an emergency arises, dial 911.

The Red diamond rattlesnakes in the park are a part of the ecosystem. Please do not harm any of the snakes in the park. The park exists to protect the animals within it. By following these tips and guidelines you can help us ensure that the park stays open and that you stay safe.

However, accidents can occur. If any snake bites you, please seek medical attention immediately. Even the bite of a nonvenomous snake can cause damage (through infection or tissue damage). Here are some steps to take for initial first aid if someone is bitten by a snake from ‘Pest Notes’ by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources publication 74119:

If you are less than 1 hour from a treatment facility:

  • Call for help
  • Keep the victim calm
  • Wash the bitten area with soap and water gently
  • Put a cold and wet cloth over the bite
  • Get them to a treatment facility

There are many misconceptions about rattlesnake bite treatments. Here are some things that should NOT be done:

  • Do not apply a tourniquet
  • Do not put ice on the bite
  • Do not cut at the bite with sharp objects
  • Do not try to suck out venom with your mouth
  • Do not apply electric shock

Remember during any visit to wear proper attire when going through the park and to bring plenty of water and sun protection with you. By being prepared, you can stay safe and enjoy the park’s beauty.

California Native Plants: When in drought, native it out!

In Southern California it is important to remember that water conservation is key.  As droughts rage on, cities pass stricter ordinances on water usage.  Instead of allowing your lawns to go brown, or continuing to water grass despite the water restrictions, the Ameal Moore Nature Center at Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Park has another suggestion: native plants!

Many people ask what they can do to their lawns with the water restrictions. There are of course, various answers to this dry dilemma. You could:

  • Use lava rocks in the yard in place of grass
  • Replace your living grass with artificial grass
  • Leave your lawn as a dirt lot

Or, if those options are not to your liking, you could consider filling your lawn with native plants.   Native plants are perfect for homeowners concerned with water conservation. As they are a part of the surrounding ecosystem, they are perfectly suited for the dry climate that Southern California is famous for.   They do not require more than the usual amount of rainfall, have their own defenses against pests, require less maintenance compared to non-natives, and they can look great and come in a variety of colors!

There are many reasons to consider the switch from non-natives to natives:

  • Native plants are low maintenance
  • Native plants require less chemicals or pesticides (they have natural defenses against local threats)
  • You will have lower water bills
  • You will be conserving water
  • You will not have to be concerned about brown lawns during restricted water use months

If you are unsure of what natives to plant, check with your local nursery for information and suggestions. There are also nurseries that only carry native plant species. You can check online to see if they are in your neighborhood. Nurseries should be able to tell you what specific plants are best for your area.

For additional information, you can check out some of these sources:

Sources:  United States.  Riverside-Corona Conservation District. Wild About Natives. n.d. Print.


Please take our survey

The nature center is currently designing educational programming that will be free to the public in the Fall.  In order to help us create better programming, please take a moment to answer our three point survey (available in English and Spanish) located on our home page.  By taking a moment to answer the survey, you’ll help us ensure that we provide better, more engaging programs for visitors of all ages.