Sacramento Valley from the air

On Monday I had the opportunity to go flying with our friend B. who is visiting from Australia. I had flown with him several times before, and I was only too happy to do it again. The world is so different from the air—what looks familiar on the ground sometimes isn’t all that easy to identify from above.

We flew from University Airport here in Davis up to Willows, about 60 miles north, had breakfast at the airport diner (yes, there is such a thing even in Willows, population 6,000), and then flew back. It wasn’t a long flight, but I was mentally exhausted—in a good way—when we landed because I had done so much looking and photographing.

The Sacramento Valley is a major rice-growing region. The rice fields still have lots of water in them so the reflections of the sun were phenomenal. Just as impressive was seeing the geometry of fields and orchards, and the juxtaposition between irrigated areas—green and lush—and non-irrigated land—brown and parched.

Just before landing in Davis, we made two passes over our neighborhood so I could take pictures of our house. Coincidentally, my wife and daughters were in the front yard as we flew over, and they actually heard and saw our plane. In one of my photos, the three of them are visible when you magnify it enough!

While this post has absolutely nothing to do with gardening, I hope you’ll still come along on this visual journey. It’ll give you a better idea of the part of California that I call home.

Our Cessna 172
Interstate 80, looking west towards the Bay Area
Rice fields off Interstate 5 north of Woodland
Check out the patterns of the levees
More rice fields
Intriguing looking bodies of water—no idea what they are!
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Rice fields (top) and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (bottom)
Man-made landscape vs. natural
In some photos, the rice fields looked like they had received a dusting of snow
Interesting patterns
Yuba City
Sutter Buttes, the world’s smallest mountain range
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Orchard and tilled field
Giant orchard and fields
I love this photo—wonder what is at the end of this road?
Edge of a circular field—check out the saw-blade edge!
Row of oleander bushes separating the north- and southbound lanes of Interstate 5 in Willows
Road intersecting with an irrigation canal
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Orchard and rice fields
Crazy pattern quilt
Amazing contrast between irrigated parcel and the parched landscape around it
(Dunnigan Hills)
Our neck of the woods (our house marked in yellow)
Another view of our house
Close-up of our house.
You can see how small our lot actually is.
Landing at University Airport


  1. A beautiful day for a flight! D thought the odd looking ponds might have been a private duck hunting club. I thought it might be the catfish ponds.

  2. Wow your photos are so incredible. It really is great to see the rice fields from up above at this time of year. I drive down baseline rd. in Roseville and see the rice fields all the time. And the first shot of the Cessna with the sun peaking behind is super! Your house looks big and beautiful. Sounds like a wonderful Day!

  3. Wow!!! With all that greenery it is garden related ;-) gorgeous shots, you don't get to see that view very often on the blogs, and what a wonderful experience, would love to do that one day too!

  4. Excellent post! I had no idea about the rice fields. Does it seem wrong to anybody else that rice is grown in such an arid location?

    I love the orchard photos... well, all of the photos really. I would love to get a top-down photo of my yard someday...

  5. All, thank you very much for your nice words. I'm glad you enjoyed these photos. Our Australian friend visits us every summer to go flying and keep up his U.S. pilot's license. Otherwise I'd never have an opportunity like this.

    Alan, large stretches of the Sacramento Valley once were seasonal wetlands. Most of them were drained by settlers in an attempt to reclaim land. Water allocations are a hot-button topic these days, and many people say that a water-intensive crop like rice should not be grown here. But the conditions apparently are excellent for rice, much of which is exported to Japan.


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