Friday, June 18, 2010

Go with the (Low) Flow ...

Your intrepid reporter seeks to find out whether or not our part of the Russian River provides good clean fun for ourselves & our children for the summer of 2010 & gives it a rock-solid go-ahead!
Q: What do you do when your Kayak capsizes on the Russian River during a low-flow summer?
A: Get out & walk.
As both of my readers know, I'm NOT a huge fan of the current "Low Flow" water management policy for the Lower Russian River. When folks talk about "Low Flow" around here, it refers to a Federally-mandated policy designed to limit water flows for the Lower Russian River to 70-90 cubic square feet per minute (CFM, which also means "Come F*** Me", believe me, I know, I've worn those kind of shoes in days gone by), so the estuary at the foot of our River doesn't break through to the Pacific Ocean & thereby allows baby salmons to hatch & grow in an ideal habitat. I agree with this in principal, but find the policy to be flawed in multitudes of ways which could cause permanent economic damage to our home-spun tourist industry.

Last summer's "Low Flow" policy -- imposed by drought in addition to habitat preservation -- proved a disaster. Locals & tourists alike found the shallow swimming holes & billowing algae blooms to be utterly loathsome. Even the briefest excursions for my friends & I who have young children resulted with our children contracting ear-aches, stomach-aches, pink-eye, and other ailments.

This summer's different. For starters, we've had abundant rainfall. As a community, we've also demanded that we approach "Low Flow" & habitat preservation in a new way.

In our second "Low Flow" year, in the wake of heavy rainfall, I decided to test the proverbial waters with my 8-year-old daughter starting with Johnson's Beach in downtown Guerneville. My daughter ADORES paddle boats for their rock-solid stability, loathes canoes for their "tippi-ness" & feels neutral about Kayaks because she has never ridden on one.

Thanks to "Low Flow", my preferred option of renting a kayak at Johnson's Beach was the only option available to us. We plunk down our $10 for a generous hour, life-jackets, paddles for both of us, & a swift push-off & off we go. We push off from Johnson's Beach, paddle under the Bridge, and -- voila! -- FREEDOM! My eight-year old daughter gets the rhythm & pushes her paddle away from shore. The River runs clear & cool & we watch the rocks skidding by beneath us. Eventually, we need to stop & drag our kayak along as we drift into the shallows, but we could have avoided this by staying in the channel.

The River runs clear, fast, & smoothly ... we lose our paddle, lunge for it, & grab for it ... OOPS, I've screwed up -- then off we go, in deep, clear green water, paddling past Mallard ducks with their ducklings trailing behind, tiny swallows swooping about, tiny humming birds alighting upon the enchanting foliage on shore, & huge Blue Herons taking off into the sky.

All along we pass by these beautiful vacation homes with people who feel as excited as we do about all the beautiful creatures who cross their line of vision. We paddle by, & the River flows by swift & sure & clean. Most of the time, we can see to the bottom.

Perhaps this can work for all of us, I danged well hope so.

If not, I'll always feel grateful for the spectacularly beautiful day we had.

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