Jun 212012

Rivers for Change hunts for treasured plants
By Will Spangler

There is a small world out there of hard to find rarities that few people even know exist. No, we’re not referring to dedicated botanists, we’re speaking of many listed California native plant species that are the targets of the California Native Plant Society’s rare plant treasure hunts. These treasure hunts are a citizen science initiative started by CNPS in 2010 that take place all around the state “with the goal of getting up-to-date information on many of our state’s rare plants, while engaging chapter members and other volunteers in rare plant conservation.” Often these unique and rare plants are found only in narrow patches of remaining habitat, and it’s important to survey their current distribution in order to best protect them. Historical populations do not always survive, and new patches of plants may spread, so getting out and finding them provides a fun opportunity to put an eye to the landscape and gather information that biologists and land managers can use going forward.

Many rare and threatened plants occur along rivers and riparian corridors, which are dynamic and often shifting places that pose a variety of access challenges. Rivers for Change, with many river miles to paddle and document, is a natural partner to conduct surveys along the state’s waterways, and recently joined forces with CNPS for a treasure hunt around Frank’s Tract where the San Joaquin River braids through the California Delta. With forecasted temperatures for over 100 degrees, the group met at the fine launch site of the Andrea’s Cove Yacht Club to be led by Danny Slakey from the rare plant treasure hunt headquarters. With two sleek double sea kayaks and three single cruiser kayaks, seven plant enthusiasts paddled past invasive water hyacinth and abandoned boats on the way to historical rare plant sites. We first came across an eelgrass that resembled Potamogeton zosteriformis, and then found a rare pea (Lathyrus jepsonii) growing improbably along a modified shoreline atop riprap and many weeds.

Once we paddled across the main shipping channel between passages of Stockton-bound grain freighters, we came upon beautiful stands of tule reeds (Scirpus acutus), unfortunately interspersed with spreading Arundo donax, the giant reed that’s choking California waterways. Continuing along, an astute observer in the group noticed exposed mud and roots, and paddling closer, found the tiny and beautiful flowers of Mason’s lilaeopsis (Lilaeopsis masonii) and Delta mudwort (Limosella australis/subulata), growing beneath less rare mints and morning glories. These two small plants, pictured below, are excellent examples of hard to find rare species that are vulnerable to displacement by weeds and dredging, and are very hard to visit via any other method than kayaking right up to them.

After some exhausting morning searching and paddling, we were forced to boat up into some sheltered rushes for lunch, as the levied and fortified passageways of the Delta do not allow for many beaches or anchor points. Upon resuming our hunt, we paddled up to former wooden dock pilings and to our pleasant surprise found the next rare plant of the day, Suisun Marsh Aster (Symphyotrichum lentum), growing right out of the decomposing wood! Surmising that birds may have deposited the seeds here, we took notes and photographs and charted an easy to find site for future surveys. It’s funny how these rare plants, usually so hard to uncover, can occasionally find the most obvious spots to hide. After finding the Aster, we took the long loop back to our put-in, and it was along Fisherman’s reach, a levied and channelized stretch of Delta, that we found a rare native hibiscus with heart shaped leaves (Hibiscus lasiocarpos var. occidentalis), the last rare plant occurrence we would log for the day. After a celebratory rest, we paddled home over glassy water bright with the reflection of the afternoon sun. It was a successful day, cataloguing six occurrences and seeing firsthand both how little habitat remains for these rare plants, and the encouraging signs of resilient plants making the most of their environment.

 June 21, 2012  No Responses »
Jun 142012

Join KRK & Rivers for Change for a fun, day-long float down the Klamath followed by a rockin’ party & fundraiser with dinner, music, presentations, dancing & libations.

Paddle Party PosterThis event will be a celebration of our amazing river and everyone who depends on it for their livelihood and cultural survival. Bring your lunch and we’ll meet up in the morning to spend the day paddling a mellow river run (put ins TBA). Experienced boaters can bring their own rafts and kayaks, and a local outfitter will offer guided rafting for everyone else ($45 for the day). The post-paddle party will include dinner, music and presentations for $20 (beer and wine extra).

For more info contact Konrad Fisher (konrad atklamathriver.org). Space is limited for campsites, cabins, and rafts, so make reservations ASAP!

To book space on a raft…
Please mail the following to KRK, P.O. Box 751, Somes Bar CA, 95568:
1) A check payable to Klamath Riverkeeper for $45 X # of people.
2) A list of all participants’ names with a contact e-mail and phone number for each adult.
Note: You will be asked to sign a liability waiver (or two) before rafting.

Please reserve a campsite or cabin if you need a place to stay!
CabinsKlamath River Lodge (near Orleans where the party is) has riverfront cabins starting at $100 / night. Please inform them that you’re with the KRK trip. Call them at(707) 499-0901.
Camping ($10/ night): Dillon Creek Campground is located on a beautiful Klamath River tributary near our launch site and about 15 minutes north of Somes Bar. Oak Bottom Campground is located near the Salmon River a few minutes from Somes Bar, CA. To make reservations at either campsite, visit www.ReserveAmerica.com, click California under state, enter 95568 under zip, enter your dates and click “search campgrounds.”

More Details!

About the Rivers for Change project: Klamath Riverkeeper is one of 12 community groups partnering with Rivers for Change, whose 12 Rivers in 2012 campaign will paddle 12 critical California rivers from Source to Sea to engage communities in stewardship and conservation of the state’s rivers. Learn more on the Rivers for Change website.

Location: Orleans and Somes Bar are very small towns located about half way between Eureka, CA and Yreka, CA. The rafting trip will start approximately 10 miles north of Somes Bar, CA and end 5 miles north of Somes Bar. The party will take place at the Panamnik Building in Orleans, CA.

Rafting: Participants can choose to float the first half (which includes a Class III rapid), the second half of which is very mild, or both. We will stop for lunch at the halfway point. This will be the starting point for people who prefer to stick to class I rapids.

How many nights to stay: Most people will stay two nights (the 10th and 11th) so they can join the paddle and the party. It’s possible to join the second half of the rafting trip if you come by noon on the 11th.

If you plan to bring your own boat or float with a friend: Please email Konrad (konrad at klamathriver.org) and let him know who’s bringing what kind of boat(s) and how to contact the boat leader (e-mail address and phone number). We need to know this so all boat captains can coordinate timing and safety protocol.

What to bring: For rafting, bring shoes that can get wet, water bottle, sun screen, swim suit & something to secure your sunglasses or glasses. Life jackets provided. Plan to bring your own food, or buy provisions at a local grocery (there are no restaurants).

 June 14, 2012  No Responses »
Jun 112012

By Erin Browning

The Merced starts at Mt. Lyell in Yosemite National Park and flows 145 miles down to the confluence with the San Joaquin. It is currently illegal to boat in the Park except for a 3 mile section. The park is looking for input as they develop plans for Merced management. There are also ongoing threats to the Merced’s Wild and Scenic Status. We put in below the park boundary.

Redbud – Briceburg 14 miles

With a 10-foot raft rolled up in the back of our CRV, Galen and I found ourselves
cruising up through the foothills of the Sierra, bound for the Merced River. The water
levels were dropping, and fast. We had planned to run the river a week later, but due to
the weather and low snow pack, we were in danger of having to walk our raft through
puddles if we waited much longer. So there we were, cancelling appointments and
engagements so we could catch the last of this year’s Merced whitewater.
The water corridor was stunning in all of its Sierran grandeur. We were
surrounded by pine trees and granite steps. We met our friend Will at the Redbud put-in,
and pushed off in our Ferrari of a raft; the fast, sleek, turns-on-a-dime Scout, designed for
low-water maneuverability. (A big thanks to Clavey Equipment for loaning us this high
end piece of gear, we got many compliments from other boaters). And we were off into
the wild blue yonder of the river. We weren’t quite sure where the rapids were, so we
made our way down the class 3 /4 run with some anticipation for each horizon line. Some
of the rapids had some kick to them, and we found ourselves paddling vigorously through
holes to prevent getting tube sucked in our dainty craft.

It was a hot day, and we were constantly slathering sunscreen onto our ever-reddening thighs to keep from getting too burnt.


The hot weather also encouraged a lot of swimming. Something we didn’t think twice about in this upper stretch of river. It was shocking to find this sign only a few days downstream after the Merced and San Joaquin confluence near Patterson. Sometimes we take for granted simple things that a river can supply, like the opportunity to go swimming.




Briceburg- Bagby 12 miles

We heard that the rapids got a bit more technical on this section, so we teamed up
with Zephyr, a commercial company, that was running the same stretch that day. That
day the river branched off from the highway, feeling more like wilderness.
The river narrowed as we entered a steeper gorge section including Quarter Mile
Rapid, a series of class IV drops. We scouted with the Zephyr guides and got the beta on
where not to go. The left line got pretty tight and eventually ended in sieves. So we
stayed right. We followed Zephyr’s gear boat through the drops, maneuvering through
the laterals and munchy holes.
The next big rapid was an un-runnable class VI. We portaged the boats by pulling
them up to the edge of the 20-foot waterfall and pushing them into the pool below.

In our more carefree paddling after the class IV, the meat of a big hole had a little more punch than expected. Will went for a swim and I got launched into the front of the boat on top of Galen. In all the excitement, Galen’s camera came out of his PFD, and so now it sits, at the bottom of a no-name rapid on the Merced. (Camera donations accepted by contacting Galen Licht.) Ergo, sadly we have no pictures for this section of the river. The rest of the day was mellow.

It was very striking how low the water level was, especially this early in the season. May and June are usually known for when the rivers are pumping, making rapids that much faster, challenging, and dangerous. But that is not the case this year. The water content in the Sierra snowpack is at 40% of normal. In May of 2011, the snow pack contained 190% of normal water content. Luckily the excess of snow last year will provide enough water to meet California’s needs for this year (sfgate.com). So it is not too surprising that the rivers are dropping quickly and will be un-runnable by the time high summer comes around. Many of the rafting and kayaking companies all over California will be unable to take people down the river, just as the ski and snowboard industry took a blow with such low snow levels in the winter.

All in all, it was a beautiful two days on the Merced. Loving life and the freedom
of the river. We are so glad to have the time, means, and skill to run such a beautiful
waterway. A big thank you to Zephyr for being so accommodating, showing us the line,
as well as feeding us a lot of Oreos. And for Clavey Equipment for the wonderful Scout.


 June 11, 2012  No Responses »