Mar 202014

“The Sacramento River Basin provides drinking water for residents of northern and southern California, supplies farmers with the lifeblood of California’s agricultural industry, and is a vital organ for hundreds of wildlife species, including four separate runs of Chinook salmon. It is also the home of more than 2 million northern Californians. From the mountains, to the valley, to the small towns and cities, it is the place where we live, work, and play.”

Sacramento River Basin

In this article:
Facts and Figures about the Sacramento
Threats/Management Issues
What is being done about it?
How to get involved

Facts and Figures:

Location: Drains the eastern slopes of the Coast Range, Mount Shasta, the western slopes of the southernmost region of the Cascades, and the northern portion of the Sierra Nevada. Primary tributaries to the Sacramento River are the Pit, Feather, and American Rivers

Size: 27,000 square mile basin, which, by discharge, is the largest California river and watershed system. Carries 31% of California’s total surface water runoff.

Vegetation: This large watershed has many distinct ecosystems. Vegetation MapThe northern part of the watershed the river winds through mixed conifer forests and urban and agricultural areas. In the valley floor the riparian ecosystem becomes a mosaic of wetlands, irrigated agriculture and some riparian habitat.


Animals: Used to support a wide variety of avian species and fish, however development has greatly reduced these numbers. Some fish species still dependent on the Sacramento are the Chinook salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and native trout. The Sacramento marshlands are a stop on the Pacific flyway, so there are a variety of migratory birds.

Threats/Management Issues

As a major watershed the Sacramento faces many management issues. Some of the biggest threats and challenges the watershed management faces are water quality, fish passage and native fish species, forest health and aquatic/riparian habitat.

Water Quality

A major contaminant of rivers in California is mercury. Mercury enters watersheds with erosion and atmospheric dust, but a large contributor of the mercury in California comes from old cinnabar ore (mercury sulfide) mines used during the gold rush. Mercury in the water accumulates to toxic levels in top predators, such as predatory fish and birds of prey. Mercury contamination affects almost every aspect of life in the watershed, including aquatic life, fishing; and rare and endangered species habitat.

Agriculture in the Sacramento Valley often means large use of chemicals which then run off into streams and lakes of the Sacramento watershed. This impacts toxicity of aquatic life and domestic supply.

Development can have a large effect, not just on the riparian habitats, but also on the aquatic life. Accelerated erosion due to development and mining leads to altered sediment transport rates which causes problems with irregular sediment deposition. Development of land also results in loss of the riparian cover canopy, waste discharge and diversion of streams. These three factors can significantly affect temperature sensitive species in the watersheds.

Salmon/Steelhead Fish Passage

Salmon and Steelhead face many challenges in the Sacramento watersheds, some which have been mentioned above. These anadromous fish are resilient and determined, however they are affected by nearly every aspect of the watershed, from water quality, to water supply to invasive species. One difficult management issue is fish passage throughout the watershed. The various reservoirs along the watershed pose difficult passage problems for these upstream swimmers.

Forest Health and Fire Risk

Fire has been suppressed for years with the growing populations out west. Although in the short term it makes sense, long term effects are catastrophic. Suppression of fire has resulted in thick and overly dense vegetation, posing extreme fire risk, especially in dry years (stay posted for a RFC blog post on the drought in California). Forest health and large fuel loads pose a large risk to the Sacramento watershed.

Check out the table below for the major management issues faced in the different sections of the Sacramento watershed.

What is being done about it?

There are a few different groups working on all sorts of projects with the Sacramento watershed. The biggest is the Sacramento River Watershed Program. This group collaborates with various groups throughout the watershed. If you are interested in getting involved this would be a good place to start.

The Sacramento River Watershed Program
Founded in 1996, the Sacramento River Watershed Program brings together dozens of groups and thousands of people, concerned about the health of the Sacramento River and its watershed.

An image showing various groups working with SRWP:Sacramento Groups

Some of the partnerships near Redding:

Sacramento River Preservation TrustMission Statement:  Protect and preserve the natural values of the Sacramento River while supporting ecologically sound farming practices within the Sacramento River Watershed.

Sacramento River Discovery Center Sacramento River Discovery Center is dedicated to a healthy Sacramento River watershed that provides an abundant supply of clean water for future generations.

Lower Clear Creek Watershed Group  – The Lower Clear Creek Watershed/CRMP group includes private landowners, stakeholders, concerned citizens and agency representatives who meet on a quarterly basis and conduct annual field tours of restoration activities.

Western Shasta Resource Conservation District – The mission of the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District is to collaborate with willing landowners, government agencies and other organizations to facilitate the conservation or restoration of western Shasta County’s natural resources.

Battle Creek Watershed Conservancy – The Battle Creek Watershed Conservancy’s goal is to preserve the environmental and economic resources of the Battle Creek watershed through responsible stewardship, liaison, cooperation, and education.

How to get involved

Join RFC for a Community Conservation Paddle on May 17th from the Sundial Bridge to Anderson River Park.

There are various projects on the Sacramento along with many not-for-profit groups working on this watershed. If you are interested in taking further action, contact some of the various groups mentioned above for volunteer positions, river clean-ups and awareness.

The best thing you can do is become informed and educate your peers. These threats will not be resolved without a rise in awareness.

As always, leave no trace. Tread lightly, take only pictures, leave only ripples.

Information on this page was compiled from the Sacramento River Watershed Program webpage. To learn more you can visit their site at

 March 20, 2014  No Responses »
Feb 242014

The wind was gusting and it was dumping buckets of rain. Ironic considering this unusually dry winter but nobody could really complain. Instead there was an excited buzz, something more than the usual coffee and pre-race jitters, and excitement that only a big storm can bring. Despite the cold and the wet everyone had ear-to-ear grins on their faces. What else would you expect from boaters?


If anyone were to happen upon us out there they must have thought we were crazy. And I suppose we are. Since the Cow Patty Pageant, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to convey that crazy, to explain that itch, to pin down what draws us out, even on the most dismal days, to paddle.

Everyone is paddling for something, towards something, away from something, and sometimes those directions all converge into one place. If we are lucky we might find a group of paddlers like the one that met up on February 9 at the Estero Americano. This is a community willing to be out in any condition, a community that supports all types and levels of paddlers, and a community that will never fail to smile, no matter the storm. For many people, it is this community that keeps them coming back.

As per usual, the Cow Patty Pageant brings together the best of the boating community.  After the fact is when you really learn how hardcore everyone is. Winds were reported gusting to 25 mph, in the afternoon the area received emergency evacuation notices, SUPers raced in rain slicks, and 11-year old Jasper humbled us all with his incredible performance and unshakable smile. 39 racers participated, not to mention all of the amazing volunteers who braved the storm to make the race run as smoothly as possible.


I hope you now are all sitting there, basking in the glory of the 22nd annual Cow Patty Pageant, or kicking yourselves for staying inside due to the weather. To rub it in a bit further, I will not fail to mention the amazing costumes, the Fishing Pond of Mystery, a delicious dinner and some outstanding raffle prizes including donations from Epic Kayaks, Huki, PaddleMe Sportswear, Adventure Medical, and Sea to Summit.

 This was simply the start of some great events RFC has in store for this season. Stay tuned for clinics, river clean ups and more races!  And while it’s fresh on your mind, let us know what keeps you paddling.

 The RFC Team

 February 24, 2014  No Responses »
Jan 192014
by Kiki Wykstra
January 10th was not a typical January morning.  It was about 20 degrees warmer than it should have been, but nobody was complaining. After all, for winter rafting you take all the sunshine you can get.  Then there was the company. It was like the river moffia. Car after car pulled up to Hammon Grove Park adorned with a variety of bumper stickers, some of which touted support for Rivers For Change (RFC) and South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), our partner in this whole affair. More notable however, were the boats.  Canoes, kayaks, even a few rafts colored the parking lot. People mulled about making introductions and smiling at old friends, talking about their favorites for the upcoming film festival. RFC co-founder John Dye was plopped in the center of the parking lot with a folder full of waivers, a thermos of coffee and an easy smile.  People and rivers, a perfect example of our grass-roots, home-grown organization. 
River to Reel 4

After the usual shuttle shuffle (which no matter how many people show up always seems to be the most complicated and confusing part of any day on the water) everybody circled up for more formal introductions.  The variety of people was astounding: whitewater enthusiasts from Reno, a local BLM employee, a few promising filmmakers, a handful of SYRCL representatives, new volunteers from the Tuolumne River Trust, an environmental litigator,  a plumber from the bay area, a few local paddlers and a riptide physicist from England; a ragtag group of river-loving people.  

Gary Reedy, the river ecologist from SYRCL gave a great introductory talk on the lower Yuba watershed. This river has lived a million lives and scars still line the riverbanks.  Mine tailings are piled high on either side of the river, remains of hydraulic mining during the gold rush. Forceful mining processes changed a once nutrient rich floodplain two miles wide into an odd landscape of cobbled hills, forcing the river to find a narrow, meandering path through.  

River to Reel 6

After over a decade of advocating, 39 miles of the South Yuba  River (part of which was paddled in the morning) was declared Wild and Scenic in 1999.  In 2003 Nevada City hosted the first ever Wild and Scenic Film Festival in honor of the designation.  Although a big win for SYRCL, this was just the beginning.  SYRCL’s river program is currently working to restore the lower Yuba River.  We could see and hear the river running by, a tired remnant of its former glory.  Nearly 40 miles upstream the river is trapped and tamed by the 280 ft high slab of concrete, Englebright Dam. Taking advantage of this steady release, we launched on our January paddle, a colorful smattering of watercraft disrupting the Yuba’s glassy reflection.  

California’s lack of precipitation meant lower flows and some pushing of rafts, but about an hour later we came to our portage, lunch spot, and official end of the Wild and Scenic stretch, Daguerre Dam. Lunch consisted of little formal talking, but rather more excited chatter. People were asking questions, sharing ideas, noting problems and trying to think of solutions. The energy was intoxicating. A boating trip of twenty strangers had turned into a think-tank filled with people dedicated to making a difference.  No idea was the same, everybody came with a slightly different background and perspective, but everybody was receptive, listening attentively and building on one another.

River to Reel 3River to Reel 2







The afternoon was spent floating through a dramatically impacted riparian corridor. Ideas kept flowing.  We had to push boats a few more times. As the take-out came closer silence slowly stole over.  Anticipation for the upcoming film festival was certainly there, but there seemed to be something else.  Something brought on certainly by the boaters but also by the river. To me it seemed like a daunting sense of hope, a hesitant optimism and a renewed connection of people and rivers.  

River to Reel group


 January 19, 2014  No Responses »
Aug 272013

DeltaLunchThis last weekend Rivers for Change and the California Native Plant Society teamed up in the Delta to look for some  Native Plants and we had some great finds on the trip – 2 populations of Hibiscus lasiocarps var. occidentalis, 1 population of Lathyrus jepsonii var. jepsonii, and one population of Scutellaria lateriflora.  The Scutellaria was a really big find because there are only 12 known populations of this plant in the whole state!  Also, it’s never been seen flowering in California in July, so we now that the blooming period is longer than previously known.  Finally, the Scutellaria has never been seen on that little island before.  The California Natural Diversity Database has an old record of the plant collected from Bouldin Island in 1892:  Bouldin Island is about 2 miles south of where we found the Scutellaria, so this was almost certainly a new population!

Pretty exciting eh!?


Scutellaria lateriflora

 August 27, 2013  No Responses »
Jul 012013

For those of you who missed all our successful events in May, let’s give a quick recap.

We joined the River Exchange for a few Restoration Days on the Upper Sacramento and the Klamath in which we pulled some mighty invasive plants. You can view some photos here.

We then had almost 50 people join us for our pre-Cal 100 Community Paddle in Redding. Headwaters Adventure helped sponsor the event and hosted a BBQ afterwards! Here are those photos!

97 Racers joined us for The California 100. It was an inspirational weekend. If you missed the results you can check them out here and view some photos as well.

Rain showered us for our Memorial Day River Cleanup with the Sacramento River Preservation Trust but a hardy crew still picked up over 15 bags of trash! Some delights from the day can be viewed here.

If you missed the buzz be sure to look for some upcoming articles in Canoe and Kayak and Sea Kayaker magazines about Rivers for Change and the inaugural California 100!

Thanks to all our amazing volunteers, partners, and sponsors for helping make these events so special.

 July 1, 2013  No Responses »
May 232013

10a 9 shadow text


We have 102 registered participants in the first California 100! An ultra distance paddle race down the Sacramento River from Redding to Chico. It is a fundraiser for the non-profit Rivers for Change who is working to engage, collaborate and promote conservation through adventure.


Recently in the Press :

May 22, 2013: California’s First Ultra-Marathon Paddle-NBC Bay Area

May 19, 2013: Redding Record Searchlight Article on the California 100

May 16, 2013: Sac River ultra-marathon paddle race slated for Memorial Day

April 1, 2013: California 100 Paddle Sport Ultra-Marathon Clinic • Race Clinic – April 6th on the Russian River

March 22, 2013: Paddling with a Purpose • Mary Catherine O’Connor from Outside Online profiles Rivers for Change and the California 100.




 May 23, 2013  No Responses »
May 122013

Did you know it’s Water Awareness Month? Rivers for Change has so many amazing events coming up in May, we are literally bursting at the seams of our pfd’s with excitement! What better way to become more educated about water than to get out on it?

We kick off our events:

May 19th: with a Community Conservation Paddle Day from Redding to Anderson on the Sacramento River with a BBQ afterwards sponsored by Headwaters Adventure. Bring your own boat or jump in a raft sponsored by North Country Raft Company. More info and register at

May 25th: The California 100. A one hundred ultra-marathon around the clock paddle race down the Sacramento River from Redding to Chico.

May 26th: The day after (or day of for some) that the racers have finished paddling we’ll have a BBQ and awards ceremony at Woodson Bridge (near Corning). It’s an event open to the public, there will be food, beer, and a silent auction (take a sneak peak- there might be something you want ;)

May 27th: Join us and the Sacramento Preservation Trust for a River Cleanup! We’ll put-in right where the Cal 100 takes out, travel a few miles downstream and pick up trash along the way. We’ll then head over to the famous Scotty’s Landing for Door Prizes and Live Music. More info and register at :

This month, let’s think about where our water’s coming from, where it’s going and how it plays a role in our lives as well as our neighbors.

We hope you can join us or get out and enjoy a waterway near you,
The RFC Team

 May 12, 2013  No Responses »
Mar 272013

Klamath Mural
In following RFC’s mission to strengthen peoples’ connection to rivers and waterways, we are often incredibly inspired by the work of other organizations that further river conservation and community engagement. The Klamath River #WaterWrites Mural Project is one such source of inspiration.

Water Writes Klamath Mural Video

Born from a collaboration between the Klamath Justice Coalition and Bay Area’s Estria Foundation:

“The mural portrays the story of the removal the dams from the Klamath River. Dancers are painted bringing balance back to the river with their world renewal ceremony. To their left are images of past industry and the effects left on the land and water; mine tailings from hydraulic mining, toxic algae from industrial farming and hydroelectric dams, and the fish kill of 2002. To their right, is the vision of a future healthy river after the largest dam removal project in human history is complete; salmon are swimming strong, people are fishing and harvesting, and trade is strengthening the community. Coyote is represented in the center as a catalyst for change. The mural is completed by a frog foot pattern border, to symbolize healing.” ~Nancy Hernandez, Water Writes Mural Project Manager

Many artists and community members contributed to the completion of this project in the Amayav Farmers Market of Orleans, CA. The Klamath River Mural is one of ten planned projects around the globe as part of the Estria Foundation’s #WaterWrites mural series which highlights community access to safe drinking water, river restoration and waterways conservation. The series aims to link international communities in creatively raising consciousness about these issues.

Last year, Rivers for Change helped spotlight the Klamath as a part of their 12 Rivers Campaign. Traveling the river from source to sea while engaging communities in stewardship and conservation. We look forward to following the progress of Estria Foundation’s international #WaterWrites mural series as well as celebrating the Klamath River’s continual restoration.


More Information:

Estria Foundation #WaterWrites Project:

Klamath Riverkeeper:

Klamath Justice Coalition:

Rivers for Change Klamath River Source to Sea:


 March 27, 2013  No Responses »
Mar 032013


Rivers for Change hosted a successful 21st Cow Patty Pageant Paddle Race on February 2nd! We had a fabulous turn out and almost matched our record number of paddlers with 51 people out on the beautiful Estero Americano. Race results can be viewed here. 2013 CPP Results
If you haven’t checked seen some of the photos from the Cow Patty you can do so on the Rivers for Change Facebook page. Feel free to tag and share!

There have also been a few videos compiled:
Helen put together this recap:
And Carter nailed almost all of you paddling across the finish line, in case you want to evaluate your form at the end of a race:

Many of you have started training for the Cal 100. Remember there are pre-race trainings happening with Carter Johnson to help you prepare. Visit for more info and to register for the race if you haven’t already.

Our 2013 Source to Sea campaign will be taking place in May on the Sacramento River. Follow along as the Rivers for Change Source to Sea Team makes their way from the top of Mount Shasta to the Golden Gate Bridge under human power.  We will be hosting several community events along the way. Check out our website,,  for up to date info as these events get under way.

The CPP benefited RFC, Sonoma Land Trust, and the Valley Ford Volunteer Fire Dept.

Your support helps Rivers for Change to engage people with their rivers and promote conservation through grassroots community collaboration.

We look forward to seeing you on the water again soon.

Paddles up!


 March 3, 2013  No Responses »
Jan 292013

Prelude paddle to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City- in collaboration with SYRCL
As Roger handed me the metal paddles I pictured myself prying small frozen fingers off of them. My own fingers were near freezing as I loaded the gear into our truck for the next morning. Nevada City, along with much of California, was going through one of winter’s coldest snaps and we were about to take a bunch of Hawaiian high school kids out in freezing temperatures to float the Lower Yuba River.

This is the River to Reel, the second annual lower Yuba River paddle hosted by Rivers for Change in conjunction with the South Yuba River Citizens League’s (SYRCL) 11th annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Grass Valley and Nevada City, CA. The Hawaiian kids were there as young film makers who had had several of their environmental movies accepted as part of the film festival. Check out their projects HERE. They were seven in a group of 28 people who braved chilling temperatures to meander down a river full of history.

Gary Reedy, SYRCL’s science program director, filled us in on the recent past of the Yuba River and why it looks just plain weird. The region was a hot bed of hydraulic mining during the gold rush. Miners shot water cannons into the river banks and mountain sides to flush out gold causing 684 million cubic yards of sediment to be removed from the Yuba watershed and transported downstream. Having a hard time putting meaning to that number? Try this: Picture a 100 mile stretch of 20 ton gravel trucks lined bumper to bumper, filled to the brim with gravel, rock and earth. Now make the width of that line five miles wide. This sediment flowed to the confluence of the Yuba and Feather River, then south into the Sacramento River where it eventually sank into the San Francisco Bay Delta choking out wetlands and causing concern for shipping commerce.
Gary yuba

These mining processes also piled cobbles and earth up into a maze of strange hills, ridges and pools, pinching the river down to the narrowest edge of a flood plain that was once two miles wide. SYRCL is currently working to restore the floodplain, which is still heavily impacted by the hydraulic sediments and dredger mining.

On the banks, the sun has thawed us and everyone is piled three layers deep in Patagonia fleece and Kokatat shells. Reheated and cozy, the kids forget they’re not in Hawaii, we take to our boats and off we float. We are all amazed. We see Bald Eagle, King Fisher, the air is quiet and crisp. We portage Daguerre dam and lunch above it, contemplating this out of date concrete relic. Gary discusses SYRCL’s latest fight against a proposed hydro-electric expansion at this dam site that would further threaten near extinct salmon runs on the Yuba. Dave Steindorf of American Whitewater is on hand to explain the benign appearance of what is actually a deathly reversal of the low overhead dam- and the reason we are portaging.

We’re completely warm after carrying the boats around the dam. The last few miles flow effortlessly and the afternoon shadows draw long. The Hawaiian kids, who arrived shivering and nervous, spend time at the take out sitting quietly by the river, watching the sun dip from between the willows, making a connection. They tell us how much they enjoyed the day. The bond they made with the Yuba after one day of paddling reminds us how important our efforts are to save and restore our rivers, for ourselves and for them.
hawaiian kids

Even though this river has been bound, choked, and nearly drained it still flows on and provides us with a place for peace, reflection and enjoyment with our new and old friends. It is the perfect prelude to the Wild and Scenic film festival, from which I will leave thoroughly inspired at what has been accomplished and with grave understanding of the monumental work that lies ahead.


Get involved!
- Learn more and become part of the force against a new dam at Daguerre point and the fight to save the salmon at:
- Join SYRCL on a paddling tour (Salmon Tour) of the lower Yuba River in the fall for a great chance to see firsthand the “weird”, wonderful riverscape and one of the last best wild spawning runs of Chinook salmon in the Great Central Valley.


 January 29, 2013  No Responses »