I’d like to invite you the FresYes reader to come with me on a year-long journey to explore the most precious of our outdoors locations the one and only, my personal favorite place in all of Fresno, the San Joaquin River.
So great is my love for The River that it was a crime to try to do a single post about our river. During 2015 expect a post every other month or so about the river itself, the micro spots that some know and some don’t, the recreation factor and the people who work hard day in and day out to keep it safe, exciting and protected.
As luck would have it I was introduced to Finn Telles of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust over the holidays. Finn and I had a fun fireside chat about the vision and goals of the Trust, I learned about the purchasing of lands from willing sellers along the river from the Dam in Friant to Hwy 99. That was the most fun talk I’ve had about a topic since I started writing for FresYes. Finn has such an excitement for the river and its lands I couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm. I look forward to this coming year exploring with him to bring you the river series and I think the end result will be amazing.
To really get started and to get a feel for what they are looking to build for us all I had to take a look back into our past to get an idea of what the river was 100 years ago before we can see what it could be again. From a once unhindered beast in the spring time to a meandering river of summer the San Joaquin was as changing as the people who have lived on its shores. From the Yokuts and the Monache peoples, the miners who preceded those trying to escape the dust bowl days in the 30’s to you and I today people have looked to the river for the basics of life.
The river has always provided water, food and shelter but it was its use as a waterway that in its early years separated it from the rest bringing small ships all the way from the San Francisco Bay. The building of the Friant Dam brought with it a whole new river, some say for the better others say it was the worst change possible. While I’m not here to debate that I can only imagine how cool it must have been to see salmon in the water less than a mile from my home.
Today we are lucky that a few people in the early 80’s had a vision to stop the decay, repair the damage and restore the river to a modern usable version of its older self. The River Parkway and Conservancy Trust has no matter what side of the “conservation” fence you fall on has without a doubt become the saving grace of the once wild and mighty San Joaquin.
Stay tuned for a mini Lewis and Clark style expedition from Friant to 99 that I hope will open a whole new way of looking at OUR San Joaquin.