Sunday, January 8, 2017

Waiting out the Storms

The forecast for the San Francisco Bay area predicts rain 11 out of the next 15 days. Many Northern California Rivers are expected to rise above flood stage. The Mokelumne has already risen above its' banks closing launch facilities between the Camanche Dam and Lodi Lake. The dam is currently releasing 5000 CFS into the Mokelumne and the Cosumnes River Preserve has water nearly reaching the parking lot. Nimbus dam had been releasing 35,000 CFS which is 10x the rate it normally releases but is planning on releasing 75,000 CFS beginning Monday. With these kind of flows it's best to stay off the water and stay safe!

I was able to get out and paddle Friday on the San Joaquin River before the storms started to roll in. It was the "calm before the storm" and was absolutely beautiful. It was very chilly at 44 degrees at 2pm when I launched but wearing appropriate gear makes all the difference. I always dress for immersion and on Friday that meant 2 layers of thermal pants under my dry pants another two layers of synthetic shirts under my drytop, neoprene socks and booties, hat and balaclava.

I launched from the Antioch Marina ramp at 2pm and paddled east against the 2 knot ebbing tide. It was slow going but I managed to make it to the eastern end of West Island with one rest stop near the Antioch Dunes. I paddled close to shore as much as possible to take advantage of slower current. I paddled for about an hour and a half before crossing the river to reach the shore of West Island. I knew the return home would be easy paddling and take less than half the time to get back.

It really was an amazing afternoon. The light seemed to change by the minute, beginning with blue skies dotted with clouds and shifting to highlights of yellow and orange mixed with blues and grays. I wasn't alone while paddling because I had the company of a river otter, great blue heron, many cormorants and an emotional encounter with a beaver. I saw the beaver when I made it across the river close to West island. At first I thought it was just another beaver swimming along until I noticed he wasn't doing much swimming and seemed to be struggling to stay above water. As I got closer I noticed something poking out of his back, not through the fur but some sort of deformity. I think he may have been struck by a boat. He obviously was injured and couldn't move his tail or rear feet. I floated helplessly next to him wanting so much to just pick him up and put him in my kayak. Those big teeth of his kept me from doing so and I kept him company and prayed for God to relieve his suffering. He graciously answered my prayer and the beaver passed on before we reached the end of the island. I was saddened to see this beautiful creature die but I was also thankful for the encounter as it reminded me of how fragile our lives and our environment are and how important it is for us to be good stewards caring for our neighbors, neighborhoods and the critters that live among us.

My paddle did end on a melancholy note but it was a unique experience I will always remember.

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  1. Thank you for sharing like this information. This is the most easy way of learning. This helps me to get some idea regarding this and helps me to bring a creative thought.
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  2. Thank you for sharing the heartfelt story about the injured Beaver... I had a similar long goodbye to a gorgeous gray fox last year. Heart-wrenching, as I was the culprit who hit her while driving...

    I'd love to contact you for info about paddling up North into the Delta from the San Joaquin. I'm hoping to kayak the Merced from the lowest dam, across to the SJ, and then up to Benicia. Would appreciate your perspective on time, distances, feasibility, etc. My email is