My Search for the Salinas River and How it Found me

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Searching for the Salinas River

Every year about January, I take a walk to see if the Salinas River has water in it yet. Since it rained hard last night, I was hopeful this might be the day I would find it. So I headed to Larry Moore Park near my Paso Robles home with the intent of walking across the riverbed to the westernmost channel. This channel Is the last to dry up in the summer and the first to fill after sufficient rain. During my walk I had an awesome surprise. But for now, follow me as I walk and you will eventually share the highlight of my day -- when the river found me.

Lawrence Moore Park in Paso Robles

A markerLawrence Moore Park, Paso Robles, CA -
Lawrence Moore Park, Paso Robles, CA 93446, USA
[get directions]

Just behind Lawrence Moore Park you will see the tan sand of the dry Salinas River that I have written about here. Use the Satellite View.

My Walk to Find Water

I passed this dry creek on my way to the river. This creek feeds into the river, so when I saw that only its surface was wet, I didn't have too much hope there would be water in the river itself.
I passed this dry creek on my way to the river. This creek feeds into the river, so when I saw that only its surface was wet, I didn't have too much hope there would be water in the river itself. | Source
As I took the river access path down, I noticed that part of the bank had fallen away in chunks. I didn't observe anything like that last year.
As I took the river access path down, I noticed that part of the bank had fallen away in chunks. I didn't observe anything like that last year. | Source
Here I'm starting across the dry riverbed. The shrubs are my destination. We are looking north here toward the Niblick Bridge, barely visible in the background. You will notice the riverbed shows evidence of the recent rain.
Here I'm starting across the dry riverbed. The shrubs are my destination. We are looking north here toward the Niblick Bridge, barely visible in the background. You will notice the riverbed shows evidence of the recent rain. | Source
The shrubs are on the islands in the middle of the river that I must walk over to get to the western channel. The hotel in the distance is on the other side of the freeway, which you see just in front of it. Both are much farther away than they seem
The shrubs are on the islands in the middle of the river that I must walk over to get to the western channel. The hotel in the distance is on the other side of the freeway, which you see just in front of it. Both are much farther away than they seem | Source
I'm headed in the direction of the freeway, but will follow the meandering path made here by the river, which you see here as the dry portion.
I'm headed in the direction of the freeway, but will follow the meandering path made here by the river, which you see here as the dry portion. | Source
The group coming toward me has been where I'm going. The two-footed ones all assure me they have seen the water in the west channel. I know I'm headed in the right direction.
The group coming toward me has been where I'm going. The two-footed ones all assure me they have seen the water in the west channel. I know I'm headed in the right direction. | Source
I should be getting there soon. I will push ahead on that narrow path through the trees.
I should be getting there soon. I will push ahead on that narrow path through the trees. | Source
I should be almost there. This is the path the others came from. Notice the debris the river has left in its path. Some of this gets rearranged by humans, including the homeless inhabitants of this riverbed.
I should be almost there. This is the path the others came from. Notice the debris the river has left in its path. Some of this gets rearranged by humans, including the homeless inhabitants of this riverbed. | Source
More debris along the channel, along with the beginnings of this years new crop of weeds.
More debris along the channel, along with the beginnings of this years new crop of weeds. | Source
We are getting very close now, but you will notice it's not a direct path. One has to be somewhat of an explorer, aiming in the right direction -- west -- and finding ways around the patches of brush on what are sometimes islands.
We are getting very close now, but you will notice it's not a direct path. One has to be somewhat of an explorer, aiming in the right direction -- west -- and finding ways around the patches of brush on what are sometimes islands. | Source
Water at last! But this long puddle is much less than I expected to find. It's certainly not what I pictured when my "scouts" said there was lots of water where they'd come from.
Water at last! But this long puddle is much less than I expected to find. It's certainly not what I pictured when my "scouts" said there was lots of water where they'd come from. | Source
As you can see by this puddle-like portion, this is still water. I doesn't go anywhere as a real river would. I conclude the river has not really come back -- only made some large puddles that will soon dry up.
As you can see by this puddle-like portion, this is still water. I doesn't go anywhere as a real river would. I conclude the river has not really come back -- only made some large puddles that will soon dry up. | Source

Going South

I will start where I am and follow this channel south. Notice the huge log beside my path.
I will start where I am and follow this channel south. Notice the huge log beside my path. | Source
This pile of wood I'm passing definitely looks like it was stashed here with human hands. I suspect the homeless use it as fuel for fires or for building materials. You will see why I believe this as we continue.
This pile of wood I'm passing definitely looks like it was stashed here with human hands. I suspect the homeless use it as fuel for fires or for building materials. You will see why I believe this as we continue. | Source

We will go south to return to the park.

My knowledge of the Salinas River is limited to what I've learned by watching it in this park over a period of years. I have written about a different part of The Salinas River Trail in Great Short Hikes in North San Luis Obispo County. I have discussed the seasonal changes in another photo essay, The Two Seasons of the Salinas River in Paso Robles.

During the time I've been observing this river, I've noticed that there is usually more water at the south end of the park than at the north end, and the river seems to always be stronger in the channel closest to the freeway -- the west channel. In my photos here, I'm still closer to the north, towards the Niblick Bridge, than the south, near the utility bridge. But I do have to get back to the park, so I decide to head south and see what's there, if anything.


Walking in Riverbeds

Have you ever walked in a dry riverbed?

  • Yes. I do it on a regular basis.
  • Yes, I've done it a few times.
  • I've only done it once.
  • I've never done it because I don't like walking in sand.
  • I've never done it because I've never had the chance.
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Signs of the Homeless in the River

As I walked south, I passed this makeshift home. No one appeared to be in it. I wondered if this person would return before dark.
As I walked south, I passed this makeshift home. No one appeared to be in it. I wondered if this person would return before dark. | Source
As I continued south, not far past the pile of wood you saw in the previous set of photos, I saw this small branch put into the sand, as if to mark a place. Was it a signpost to lead back to the home above, or to one I might not have seen?
As I continued south, not far past the pile of wood you saw in the previous set of photos, I saw this small branch put into the sand, as if to mark a place. Was it a signpost to lead back to the home above, or to one I might not have seen? | Source

The Homeless in the River

The riverbed is home to many people who have no homes. Every year it seems at least one of these people dies because of the weather. Last year a homeless person drowned, and I believe you will see the picture of the memorial his friends made and placed under the Niblick Bridge in one of the other hubs I referenced above. This year another person died in the area of the river, but no cause was given. It did happen, though, when the temperatures were below freezing and were setting record lows here.

Camping in the riverbed and the surrounding areas is, of course, illegal, and every now and then those who are charged with enforcing the law move everyone out. Eventually, though, people move back when any other options are exhausted. The churches do what they can to help with food, but I don't know what options are open for shelter. I do know that shelter is provided for a few nights to those who are suddenly homeless, so they can find alternative shelter, because we know a friend who was helped this way. One of the Christian groups in town paid for a motel while we got our home ready to take him in. We had just moved here and had to clear some boxes out of the way to make room in the guest bedroom. He then stayed with us until he found a regular job and could afford to rent a room elsewhere.

The Homeless Among Us

What experience have you had with homelessness? Pick answer that shows your greatest involvement.

  • I have been homeless and am intimately acquainted with the problem.
  • I am currently homeless.
  • I have known a homeless person well.
  • I currently know someone by name who is homeless .
  • I see the homeless with signs in public places, asking for help.
  • I have given money directly to those who are asking for help.
  • I have seen shelters the homeless have made for themselves.
  • I have provided shelter for a homeless person.
  • I have worked in official homeless shelters.
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The River Finds Me

Perhaps this picture will give you some idea of why I was about to give up my search and just go back to the park across the river. But first I had to get back to the east side of the river.  I'm next to the west bank.
Perhaps this picture will give you some idea of why I was about to give up my search and just go back to the park across the river. But first I had to get back to the east side of the river. I'm next to the west bank. | Source
I'm beginning to move back across now, but I'm still heading south for the south end of the park where there is good shore access.
I'm beginning to move back across now, but I'm still heading south for the south end of the park where there is good shore access. | Source
Is that a puddle I see ahead? Please notice carefully this clump of willow in the left foreground here.
Is that a puddle I see ahead? Please notice carefully this clump of willow in the left foreground here. | Source
Now we are looking north as the water that found me is flowing toward that clump of willow in the last picture. I refer to this clump in the video which follows, but my camera didn't catch it then. Now you know where it is.
Now we are looking north as the water that found me is flowing toward that clump of willow in the last picture. I refer to this clump in the video which follows, but my camera didn't catch it then. Now you know where it is. | Source

Where the River Begins

Where the River Begins (Picture Puffins)
Where the River Begins (Picture Puffins)

In this story, with Locker's magnificent illustrations, a grandfather takes his two young grandsons camping so they could finally find out where their river begins.

 

What you Should Know About the Video

When I started my walk on January 21, 2012, I had no idea I was going to meet a river coming right towards me. I did have my camera, but not too much time to plan how I would shoot. As a result, a lot of wind interference can be heard on parts of the video. I was also recording at about noon, and my camera screen was often full of reflections or just plain hard to see because of the position of the sun. That meant I had no good way to monitor everything I was picking up, so in some frames I missed. Those parts of the film are quite brief and the quality does come back. So please bear with me. I was mostly concerned with recording the river as it came towards me while keeping out of its direct path.

Watch the Salinas River Channel Fill

Close-up of River Foam

We saw a lot of foam in the video. This is a big glob of it close-up.
We saw a lot of foam in the video. This is a big glob of it close-up. | Source

The River's Foam

I was a bit surprised to see the amount of thick foam the river carried on its surface as it flowed past me. I don't remember ever seeing this when I've seen the river already full with a fast current. The foam which the river was carrying was tan, which means it is natural and normal when the rains carry dissolved organic carbon from decayed plant materials to the water's surface. The foam forms because of changes in the water's surface tension caused by the chemical attraction of water molecules followed by the introduction of air, which bubbles to the surface of the water. (Source: Jeffrey C. Davis, Aquatic Ecologist, The Aquatic Restoration and Research Institute )


Willow Trees Grow in the Riverbed

in the background to the left  the river is barely visible. In the foreground is a willow in the riverbed.  You can see all the debris stacked against it where the water left it, showing how high the water rose.
in the background to the left the river is barely visible. In the foreground is a willow in the riverbed. You can see all the debris stacked against it where the water left it, showing how high the water rose. | Source

Update, December 29, 2012

This year the rains have come earlier than they did last year. I went to look for the river yesterday to see if it had returned. It had. What I did not realize was that it had returned only about 32 hours before I discovered it yesterday afternoon. This article explained how the recent rains have affected the local lakes and rivers. The live stream from Santa Margarita Lake was declared at 7:30 Thursday morning, and I went looking for it on Friday afternoon about 2:30. According to the article, because the river has been declared flowing, Santa Margarita Lake can now close the gates of its dam and keep all the water left for San Luis Obispo. So if we want our river to keep flowing, I guess we need a lot more rain to fall. I never understood before how all this works.

West Channel of Salinas River on 12-28-2012

The Salinas River is flowing north toward Salinas  on December 28, 2012.
The Salinas River is flowing north toward Salinas on December 28, 2012. | Source

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9 comments

always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

The video is amazing, water coming toward you. This was a very interesting read..Thank you for sharing your adventure..


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thank you for coming along on my adventure.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

What an adventure, your video is amazing, I couldn't believe how fast the river ran and filled.

Great hub


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Rosemay, neither could I. I don't know why I was so excited. It was sort of like seeing someone be born, I guess. Thanks for the kind words.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

I can understand you being excited I would have been too


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

A brilliant hub with great pictures and video clip.It has to be awarded the up up and away.

Thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoyed it.

Take care and have a great weeekend.

Eddy.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

Thanks for your kind words Eddy. I only wish you'd been with me to share the experience and put it into poetry.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 4 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

I am not sure I would have the patience to walk a dry riverbed or to watch it fill up, but it is interesting to observe part of the lifecycle of this one through your eyes.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA Author

For me it was like seeing the return of an old friend and meeting him at my door. Maybe it would be easier for you to understand if I say I felt I was witnessing God at work in his world as he recreated the river while I watched. It was a treat God gave me.

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