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My Search for the Salinas River and How it Found me
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
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
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?
Signs of the Homeless in the River
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.
The River Finds Me
Where the River Begins
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.
Learn More About the Salinas River in California
- Salinas River, the Upside Down River
The Salinas River, formerly Rio Monterey, is important for agriculture and for its habitat value. The Salinas River has been impacted by dams, development, overuse of its water resources, illegal off-road vehicle use and other impacts.
- City of Paso Robles: Salinas River Corridor Project
City of Paso Robles Salinas River Parkway Project
- Salinas River (California) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
General description of the Salinas River with a good map showing its tributaries.
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
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
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.