So far, on my journey along the American River, I haven’t strayed outside the American River Parkway — that most wonderful bit of nature that stretches for about 30 miles from Old Sacramento up to Folsom. That changed yesterday.
I went for a hike around the Stagecoach Trail area near Auburn. There are a number of bridges that cross the American River here. The one in the distance is the Mountain Quarries Rail Bridge, built in 1912. Here’s a better picture.
The area has many miles of hiking trails that are also favorites of the mountain bikers amongst us. I started off walking from the bottom of the canyon up the Bridgeview Trail. It’s basically straight up for a mile. Just as I started, two bicyclists came roaring down. It’s pretty amazing to see them do that. This is not a smooth trail. While the trail is wide, it is rutted and full of rocks of all sizes. That didn’t stop them from blazing their way down hill. I wonder how many skinned knees and broken bones they’ve had as a result of their love of mountain biking.
After I got to the top, I took a smaller side trail that took a more meandering route back down to the river. Much more shaded, much more green. For the next 30 minutes or so I was by myself as I made my way back downhill.
About halfway down, I came across a gurgling creek, with some small waterfalls that just made my day.
What is most notable about the area for my purposes is that it is where the confluence of the North Fork and Middle Fork of the American River is located. The quiet trail I took downhill dropped me off right at the confluence.
This is the first time I’ve ever been to this area, so I can only guess what it might look like in a normal year. California is in its third or fourth year of a severe drought. I can only guess how much higher the river might be if there was a normal snow pack feeding the creeks and streams that feed into the American River upstream. But this is it this year.
Which leads to the larger point. The bigger question. If the planners had their way, this entire area would have been submerged by a 1,000,000 acre feet lake created by the Auburn Dam, which would have been located just a little further downstream from where this picture was taken. That dam would have created a 40-mile long lake behind it. The miles and miles of trails, the old bridges, the beauty of the area would have been changed forever.
It’s a thing I struggle with. California needs more water storage to do a better job of managing our water needs in times of drought. We need a lot of other things as well — more conservation, fewer lawns, maybe a few desalination plants along the coast. All sorts of things, but, yeah, I think we need some more storage as well. But when I walked along this stretch of the American River and thought about not having it here if the Auburn Dam had been built, I got furious at the idea of the thing. How could people possibly imagine the dam in that location as a good thing? But if not there … where? That’s the thing about our human needs. We will inevitably alter nature’s course in far too many places to meet our ever growing needs. We don’t seem to have a choice. So, as we continue to grow and expand our reach, we will lose places like this…The good news though at least with this part of the world is that it seems like the Auburn Dam has ceased to exist as a credible idea. The environmentalists and preservationists and other interested groups pulled off a rare success and have stopped it from being built. At least for now. The one thing I fear for this area is if there is ever a time when both the Presidency and Congress are controlled by the Republican Party, this could become a topic of conversation again. And they may just push this through. It is stunning that the Republicans who represent this area favor the Auburn Dam rather than preserving the area for this children and grandchildren. It’s not surprising though.
So about that storage. If not here … where?