Parks Creek, swollen with runoff from the rain and melting snow.
It’s no secret that we have received a lot of water this winter. February alone resulted in an estimated 18 trillion gallons being dumped on California. Around the state, snow is piled deep, rivers are full and reservoirs are filling. The summer needs look to be well provided for in 2019. It is an auspicious beginning to the year.
Nonetheless, here in Mount Shasta, the past few storm systems have proven to be challenging in some ways, with heavy, sloppy snow and warm rains creating a quagmire in the lowlands around the mountain. Further south, especially in the area between Lakehead and Red Bluff, the surprising amount of snow felled many trees, creating a snarl of traffic on I-5 and other roads. Broken limbs and trees uprooted can still be seen in great quantities as one drives south. It is good that, with only March left to go, that the typical window for big snow storms is finally drawing to a close.
This morning, while returning from Yreka, I had the opportunity to check out Parks Creek and the Shasta River. Both were flowing heavily. It is always pleasing to me to observe these lush waterways coursing through the arid landscape of the Shasta Valley. I always enjoy those few places where the water and Mount Shasta are visible in the same frame. When I saw the creek and river today, both were flowing vigorously. It’s going to be a good spring to go kayaking on Lake Shastina.
The Shasta River, though lovely, is small potatoes compared to the nearby Sacramento River. California’s longest and largest waterway starts just across the Strawberry Valley from Mount Shasta and flows south toward San Francisco Bay. Along the way, it is impounded with its tributaries, the Pit and McCloud Rivers, to form Lake Shasta. This is the largest reservoir in California. The volume of water in the lake is immense and how full the lake is matters a great deal to all of California that lies to the south. As noted here, the lake is only 21 feet below maximum capacity. That means that all the as yet unfallen precipitation, as well as the entirety of the spring runoff will have to fill this final 20 feet. Even accepting that the final portion of a V-shaped lake is going to take more water than the lower sections, it does not seem like it will take long for the lake to reach maximum capacity.
To make room for the coming volume, the dam is releasing a significant amount of water. According to dam personnel, the rate of release is going to be ramped up over the coming weeks to create room for more rain runoff and the water that inevitably comes from the spring thaw. The waterfall it will create will be impressive. With more precipitation imminent, this seems a prudent course of action. There is a lot of snow up in the mountains waiting to melt…