What a Difference Some Glorious Mud Makes!

by Sandy Guldman
Flanders and Swan, a British comedy duo, wrote over 100 comic songs including the Hippopotamus Song, which extols the virtues of mud, glorious mud. This took on new meaning as we searched for mud to replace poor soil at Creekside Marsh.
Creekside Marsh at Hal Brown Park was restored in the mid-1970s by contouring the fill dumped there in the late 1960s. The standard tale was that the material was dredged from the natural channel of Corte Madera Creek and its surrounding tidal wetlands when the wide earthen channel was dug by the US Army Corps of Engineers. However, large bare areas persisted even after all these years and as we literally began to dig around in the marsh, we found what appeared to be material from road construction or cleared land-slides—rough, rocky material that had never been smoothed and sorted over time in a creek bed.
To grow native plants in these bare areas, we needed to replace the poor soil with what geologists call Young Bay Mud, the soil that supports healthy tidal marsh vegetation around San Francisco Bay. However, finding it is easier said than done. After a long search, we were lucky to find a project at Corte Madera Eco-logical Reserve where Marin Audubon was restoring a filled parcel and digging a new channel through Young Bay Mud. Marin Audubon and their contractor offered us the mud and the search was finally over. By then, we felt it truly was glorious mud! The mud had roots of native cordgrass, saltgrass, and pickleweed, all of which began to grow. Then we were given hundreds of pickleweed plants by Marin County Parks, which
volunteers from Cal State East Bay and Friends planted this spring. This newly restored area is transformed—thanks to mud.

Young Bay Mud is composed of soft water-saturated estuarine deposits less than 10,000 years old that underlie present and former marshlands that border San Francisco Bay.

Friends board member Cindy Lowney introduced dozens of young pickleweed plants to their new home. Photo by Ann Thomas

The earthen channel under construction in the 1960s, near Bon Air Road. Photo courtesy of Richard Torney