The Sunken City: Exploring Alviso and Drawbridge

The Silicon Valley seems like the sort of place that wouldn't at all be synonymous with a ghost town.  With buildings upon buildings housing companies such as Google, Apple, Oracle, etc., and the demand for housing high in an already dense area, the last thing anyone would imagine here is an abandoned town slowly sinking into the slough.  

But yet, that's exactly what there is. 

Drawbridge, California has an interesting history and can only be accessed by a treacherous trek along an active rail, but you can get pretty close and see some abandonment in the nearby town of Alviso by bike.  An amazing write up up Drawbridge's history and some excellent photos can be found here, but I'll also share some photos from a jaunt last weekend to check out the Sunken City.  It's been nicknamed such as it is slowly sinking into the bay, which started when an increase of infrastructure caused more water to be pumped into the slough.  This is why Drawbridge was slowly abandoned.

The Guadalupe River Trail which goes through downtown San Jose leads right to Alviso.  So that's where we started.  

The trail runs right past the airport - a few years back before this section was added, you had to ride through the airport.  It was not fun.  
This mural covers the San Jose Mineta Airport parking garage.  I always thought it was cloth, but looking close it appears to be something like ping pong balls stuck into some sort of mesh.  Kinda cool! 
The trail ends right where Alviso begins.  Alviso is still populated, but there are areas that are no longer used.  

Once we reached Alviso, we found a public shore access area that seemed to have been abandoned for some time. 
The building slightly above my handlebars was the South Bay Yacht Club.  It was upkept, but still seemingly abandoned...there were also boats in the harbor - but no way to get them in or out of the harbor.  The whole place was a bit eerie.
In memory of Tim Haines.  Found in the grass near the abandoned boats.  He was loved.
Following a rocky, gravelly trail, we passed by old dilapidated buildings and century plants sprouting trunks showing their age.  Eventually we came to a loading dock that is still in use, which turned out to be a part of the Alviso Marina Park, on the edge of the Alviso slough. 

The modern docks were a stark contrast to the old buildings and endless grasses on the slough, but we were able to ride all the way out to the end of the gangways.  
A sign on the gangway.  It pertains to weather conditions and boats, but I think it's a good bit of advice in general! 
Leaving the docks and heading left was the nature preserve, which is where we were going.
From the docks we followed the trail to the nature preserve, which was trails winding through grasses and out to the slough.  It was a bit surreal.  

A sea of grass.
The wooden trails were guarded by these gates, which stood up from the grass and made interesting silhouettes over the bay.
We moved on through the slough, which almost felt like a path riding out into the ocean.  Shorebirds and seafoam were everywhere - there were more pelicans here than I'd ever seen in my entire life.

The trails went on for some miles through the slough.  They were rough, sandy, and gravelly - probably better suited for a CX bike or a mountain bike, but my bike did just fine!
We stopped to look back towards the bay.  
The trails continued on, but eventually we came to these tracks which are still active and serve the Altamont Commuter Express Train and the a few other Amtrak lines.
The tracks were the only entrance and exit into Drawbridge.  Though I wanted to head out, a bike on live tracks is not the safest way to cross into Drawbridge, and it's closed off to the public.

The road to Drawbridge.  The land mass narrows and there's eventually nowhere to go if the train comes.  If you're going to cross, you'd better know what you're doing! 
No trains coming from either direction, so I had to try to shoot my bike on the tracks!  
Following the loop of the slough trail, it eventually led back to Alviso through a seemingly abandoned natural area which slowly gave way to neighborhoods.  

One of the last signs in the nature preserve.  Someone bothered to give the ducks blue collars.  
With the wind at our backs, we took the Guadalupe River Trail back to San Jose and had some well deserved burritos.  If you're in the bay, I recommend heading out to the slough and exploring - it's well worth it!

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