Bully Choop, Shasta Bally and the Trinity Alps line the horizon above a very full Sacramento River.
The winter of 2016/2017 has certainly been a wild one so far (see images here, here, here, here and here). Things kicked off with a utterly soaking October and has hardly let up since then. After the rain that came down during the fall, winter arrived in full force in January and has absolutely inundated California with rain and snow. After years of horrific drought, the sudden arrival of so much water has been a shock to both the psyche and the infrastructure. Where a couple of years ago the reservoirs were at 40-year lows, they are now so full as to pose threats to hundreds of thousands of people. The dangers aside, it is absolutely mind-boggling to drive around the Sacramento Valley and see so much water in the river, in the fields and in the gushing through the creeks. If you have not yet and you are able, I would strongly recommend heading over to the Shasta Dam and see the spectacle of the water being dumped out of Shasta Lake as fast as it can be. It is spectacular.
Click to enlarge:
This winter will have a noticable impact on hikers. Some will be positive, some negative. On the positive side, water will flow strongly throughout the summer and there will be lots of snow on the mountains throughout the high country. On the negative side of the equation, access will be a challenge, one which will manifest in a few different ways. Simply put, access to higher elevations will have to wait until much later than normal as the deep snow pack takes longer to melt. It will be a particularly interesting summer for those attempting the Pacific Crest Trail. For perspective on the snow level, check out this little webcam shot from Glacier Point:
Access is also going to be impaired due to road damage. Many roads, like CA 299 and Dinkey Creek Road have been damaged by the amount of water that has been inundating the state. However, no road damage is as dramatic as the rockslide that has blocked off the road into Whitney Portal, where the trailhead to Mount Whitney is found:
It may have been obvious from past posts, but one of my favorite subjects is water management and water policy in the western United States. The half of the country that lies west of the 100th meridian is utterly dependent on sound management of the shockingly scarce resource and it has impact on far-reaching aspects of our lives. This ranges from the fundamental need for water to drink to agriculture to how we recreate and use the land. Everything is touched by water policy. I would encourage everyone to read Cadillac Desert. I don’t agree with all of the author’s conclusions but it remains the best book I have seen on water in the western U.S. Not only is a fascinating account, but it will inform us as citizens as to the critical water issues we face. Frankly, Sacramento in particular has failed us in regards to water management and I think voters need to hold them to account. Water issues don’t seem to ever make it into the public discussion around election time as an essential topic but I think between the drought and the infrastructure issues this winter, we can’t avoid the topic any longer. This is made all the more pressing as the state’s population grows, putting more strain on the already strained system.
Enough of politics though. What I really wanted to do with this post is include some of the incredible footage of the rivers and dams from the past couple months. Nothing really puts an exclamation point on this winter like the stunning sights that have been put on display. I want to focus on some of my favorites from the Northern California Rivers. Skip to the end to see some really incredible footage from the Oroville Dam’s spillway clean up that has been posted by DWR the last couple of days. The scale of the engineering and logistical challenges are staggering!
The American River:
Scenes Along the Sacramento River:
Lake Berryessa (Putah Creek):
Feather River (Oroville Dam):