|The San Joaquin River at the National Wildlife Refuge in November 2017|
I hiked the Pelican Nature Trail in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge back in November, and despite a few early storms, dryness was the overwhelming feeling. Volunteers have put in a vast amount of work replanting former riparian woodlands, but it felt like the river overflow areas wouldn't see water any time soon. The river was flowing at a sluggish couple of hundred cubic feet per second.
|The San Joaquin River in the same exact location on February 14, 2017|
It was rather stunning to stand on one bank of the San Joaquin, the neglected trickle of water from the southern Great Valley, and not be able to discern exactly where, off in the distance, the other bank was located. And there is this: the water level is probably going to rise soon. Yet another intense storm is headed towards California, and there is going to be another week of rainfall and snow in the mountains upstream. Don Pedro Lake, for one, is just about full and it is possible they will have to let additional water through the system to keep the lake from overflowing.
By the way, the other strange sight on the Pelican Nature Trail was the prevalence of Desert Cottontail Rabbits. There were perhaps hundreds of them along the trail. I assumed they had been flooded out of their habitat on the flats below and had gathered on the high ground of the levee where they were nibbling at the smallest shoots of grass, or reaching for leaves on the lower branches of the shrubs.
They barely seemed to register my presence. I was stepping only two or three feet away from them before they would move into the brush along the trail. They only scattered rapidly once, when a Northern Harrier flew overhead. Human beings are not the only beings who are affected by the floods.
I'm not going to be able to liveblog the coming storm, as I will be out in the middle of it. We're headed out to the Death Valley region where we will be navigating between storms and flash floods. I expect to have some interesting observations once the storm is past and we are home again. And yes, we will be careful out there. It's not often that one gets to observe rain in the driest place in North America. See you in a few days!