I walked the river again today and saw something I haven't seen in nine months: a river at very close to minimum mandated flow. A quick check of the river gauge on the USGS site confirmed that the river was flowing at a mere 339 cubic feet per second. A look at the table above shows how the flow has been declining over the last week.
Don Pedro Reservoir remains well above normal in water storage after an extremely wet year of precipitation. It presently holds 1.7 million acre-feet, about 84% of lake capacity, and 126% of normal for this time of year.
The floodplain is a different place now, compared to what it was a year ago. The biggest change is the vegetation. Hundreds, maybe thousands of trees and shrubs have been uprooted and washed away downstream. There are huge piles of branches and tree trunks across the riverbed. Other areas along the streambed have been washed clean of any vegetation at all, leaving vast tracts of barren gravel and pebbles. The invasive and damaging water hyacinth is gone, carried downstream in the many months of flooding. One can only hope that the seeds were carried away as well, although they probably weren't. I'll be pulling any hyacinth out of the river that I see in coming months.
through sieves, longtoms, or dredges. After the search for gold ended, quarrying for gravel and sand took over, further altering the floodplain, ultimately forming numerous ponds fed by groundwater seepage.
Tuolumne River Trust to bring about some sort of natural balance on this badly scarred landscape. Adjustments to the channel can help expose the gravel bars that salmon need to spawn, and one can hope that the fall run will be more successful than those of the last five years during the drought. Only the Merced River has a more southerly run of Chinook Salmon. At one time 130,000 salmon cruised the Tuolumne. In the last decade, the run has exceeded 1,000 only once (1,926 in 2013).
|Walking the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail in Waterford. This is my backyard.|
In the meantime, the flood of 2017 seems to finally have subsided. The river is back to abnormal, and we now await the new storm season. After a monster season in 2017, one has to wonder what the coming year holds in store for the river.