Thursday, May 21, 2015

The season's future is now for California kayakers

Blue heron watches kayakers Wednesday at the San Juan Rapids, American River
It sure didn't seem like a major drought on the lower American River this week. Flows that had been running around knee-level (500 cubic feet per second, or cfs) suddenly jumped to more than 1,500 cfs. That made for some fun kayaking at the San Juan Rapids.

The question is, how long will the good times roll on our rivers and lakes? Answers seem murkier than the water in the Delta. NorCal Yak couldn't find any single water agency that could provide statewide projections. But in general, these links may help flat water kayakers plan ahead. Just don't wait too long.

The California Data Exchange probably keeps the most extensive river and reservoir storage and release info. For example, there's a neat graphic page link with current and historical reservoir averages.  The feds also have some info. Check the Bureau of Reclamation site and then focus on the Central Valley sub-pages, though the info is a bit dense. If you're a whitewater enthusiast, water releases on selected river runs are actually scheduled for the rest of the season -- see NorCal Yak pal Paul McHugh's article in The Sacramento Bee.

My fave source for current (no pun) river flow data is the Dreamflows California page. But the bottom line for any California kayaker this year? The future is now, so go for it. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

'Downsized' Tahoe still an alpine gem for kayakers

A view of the dwindling Sierra snowpack on May 2, but a beautiful scene nonetheless. 
It’s still the most spectacular alpine lake a kayaker could ever hope to paddle. So just think of Lake Tahoe as downsizing a little bit during California’s record dry spell.  

Earlier this month, three of us headed up the hill to enjoy Tahoe views while some snow still dusted the peaks. We weren’t disappointed, although the lake had dropped perhaps six or eight feet from its usual spring level.

On the plus side, Tahoe beaches are longer and wider than ever. On the minus side, that may mean some walking to haul kayaks down to the waterline. On the plus side again, water clarity is better than it’s been in years, thanks to less runoff from the hillsides.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Springtime paddling at Mono Lake

The scene: a campground near Lee Vining at Mono Lake today. My friends' well-equipped spring paddling trip included all the needed accessories -- except snow skis. At least salty lake water can't freeze...(Frank Spurlock photo) 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Get ready kayakers, bouquets are on the way

4/12 update: With few spring showers, wildflower season appears to be wilting quickly at lower elevations in Northern California. A paddle today from Rattlesnake Bar on the North Fork of the American today barely caught the end of the lupine bloom. If you've missed this spot, check out the photo album from today's trip -- which also reminded us to watch our step in the wild. This local resident slithered across the boat launch ramp as we returned to the parking lot. 
A pre-bloom day on the North Fork of the American 
How to improve a kayaking trip on a gorgeous spring day? Throw in a football-field-sized bouquet of wildflowers. Northern California paddlers can find some of the best floral displays anywhere in the nation, from poppies to paintbrush and irises to Crimson Columbine.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kayaking paradise found, then nearly lost to fire

Before the fire, a typical view of Slab Creek Reservoir along the south shoreline
There are many kayaking venues in Northern California with spectacular scenery, but perhaps only one where the view floats back and forth in time, right before a paddler's eyes. That would be Slab Creek Reservoir, near the El Dorado County town of Camino.

Slab Creek paddlers follow a green shoreline of timber that's stood untouched for perhaps a century. But only a few yards away on the opposite shore, deep scars run down the