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UC Davis Arboretum Waterway Improvements Coming!

The UC Davis campus has developed a master plan and a funding strategy for making a series of significant improvements to the Arboretum Waterway. Construction of the first phase of work will start this summer at the east end of the waterway and will continue through the end of the year. The Arboretum will be hosting a public information session about the waterway project on Wednesday, June 29th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm at the Wyatt Deck, and I hope you can attend to learn more about the project.

Primary objectives for the project include increasing flow, deepening and narrowing the channel, and introducing more native wetland vegetation to the banks. These actions will reduce the growth of algae and duckweed, reduce sedimentation, improve water quality, and improve the wildlife habitat value of the waterway. The first phase of the project will begin at the far east end and continue to the Wyatt Deck. In order to create flow in this part of the waterway, we will introduce small elevation changes via weirs – barriers across water that alter its flow characteristics. Picture a series of large, natural steps with water cascading down; the highest weir in this phase will be installed near the east end of the waterway. A large pump will recirculate the water from Spafford Lake back to the east end to continue the circulation.

In August, this project will kick off with the creation of a small dam near Wyatt Deck to allow us to drain the phase one area and separate it from the rest of the Waterway. The aquatic wildlife (turtles, fish, etc.) will be moved to Lake Spafford before the construction starts. After the east end has been drained and given time to dry out, it will be dredged to remove excess sediment. The elevation changes necessary for the weirs to function properly will be graded, the weirs constructed, the Waterway banks strengthened, and then finished with newly planted wetland vegetation. In conjunction with the Waterway improvements, we will also be renovating the pathway on the south side of this area to meet ADA requirements, eliminate safety hazards, and improve its quality. The brick pathway that begins in the Arboretum GATEway Garden will soon extend all the way to the T. Elliot Weier Redwood Grove.

During the Waterway and path construction period (late summer through the end of the calendar year), Arboretum path closures will be required to allow the contractors to perform their work. Detour signage will be posted, and updates about the project will be available on the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden website at

This phase of the Waterway project is made possible through maintenance funds from campus. Please note that the first phase of work will not have an impact on Lake Spafford or the western portion of the Waterway. Those areas will be addressed in subsequent phases over the next 3-5 years. To stay informed about this project and its progress, as well as future phases of the Arboretum Waterway improvement project, please be sure you are signed up to receive The Leaflet, the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s e-newsletter. Email us and include the word “newsletter” in the subject line to subscribe.

If you have any specific questions about the project, please contact Andrew Fulks at


Kathleen Socolofsky

Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden