Endangered San Joaquin River

CNN’s Change The List project and reporter John D. Sutter picked a great topic (and mission) to report on in “My 417-mile trip down ‘Apocalypse River'” about California’s endangered San Joaquin River. Driving through the Central Valley on the way to the Sierra Nevada, you can’t help but be struck by the contrast of the dusty hot desert-like valley interspersed with its odd rich bounty of irrigated agriculture, versus the thriving coastal areas to the west, and the pure mountain scenery to the east.

Coming from the Midwest, it seems strange to see a place with so little water be a major breadbasket of the country. And then on top of that there are the very thirsty major cities along the coast where there has been quite a small amount of water to go around for a long time now.

Some things that struck me about the story:

  • I’ve seen the tip of Banner Peak and been very close to Thousand Island Lake (the source of the San Joaquin River) on the trail in our first backpacking trip actually. I need to make that lake part of a future trip for sure. That lake is in the Eastern Sierra so it surprised me to learn it actually drains to the west.
  • I’m reminded of the Elwha River in Washington’s Olympic National Park where I’ve visited a few times and the project to have the dams removed and the salmon run restored.
  • I didn’t know that three of the five worst U.S. cities for smog were Central Valley cities (Visalia, Bakersfield, and Fresno).
  • “Going up to Oregon” haha
  • The Central Valley is sinking, with many places 10 ft or more lower than they were in the 1930s due to groundwater depletion, and some places dropping a foot per year!
  • I’m loving all the John Muir quotes
  • The long term Sierra Nevada snowpack decline projection worries me a lot because it doesn’t rain much there, even in the mountains most of the precip is snow, unlike other mountain ranges in the U.S. All parties need the snow there.

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