Early on in my trips to the American River, I walked around Sac State and Howe Avenue and took some pictures. In February 2015, we were in the midst of a multi-year drought and a ridiculous dry year. I took this picture from under the Howe Avenue Bridge.
The rainy season of 2015-16 has turned out quite differently than the previous few years. It has rained enough to be considered a normal year. The rain in the foothills and mountains has filled the reservoirs. And now, for the first time in a couple of years, the Folsom Dam’s floodgates have been opened for the first time in four years. Slightly.
Even though Folsom Lake isn’t close to capacity, there’s a reason for this. Thirty years ago, there were storms that brought the level of the lake almost to the top of the dam. A lake topping a dam is not a good thing. So, the powers that be adopted new rules for water releases to ensure that there would be capacity in the lake for a major storm that could come again towards the end of the rainy season.
Although the water releases haven’t been that significant, you’d think they were emptying the lake from some of the uproar about the floodgates being opened. Here’s the thing though. Look at that picture up top. Now, look at this one.
Yes, the river is higher and that increase means more water flowing down towards the delta and to the ocean, but seriously, it isn’t much.
I remember when I was a kid, growing up in the 70s and crossing the Howe Avenue and Watt Avenue bridges. In winter and spring, the river level was always high and in summer and early fall, it was always low. Remarkably low some years. It always amazed me how the river level varied throughout the year.
In the last couple of years, however, as I’ve paid more attention to these things, what amazes me is how consistent the river level is. Whether winter, fall, summer or spring, it always seems to be very close to the same level. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. But, it does seem remarkable to me how the river level has been managed. (Farmers down in the San Joaquin Valley may not be quite as impressed.) And on a side note … it seems to be the same thing for the Sacramento River as it flows through Sacramento, where it is joined by the American River, and then on towards the Delta. A consistent level throughout the year.
And with that, I find myself drawn to sunrises and sunsets these days. I’ll leave you with this, taken yesterday morning somewhere east of Watt Avenue.