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Poppies on the South Fork American River

Every spring the poppy bloom on the South Fork is eagerly anticipated. The poppies were out in full force this weekend on the South Fork American River in Coloma Calif. Temperatures are hitting the 70’s and we are starting to shed the dry suits and head covers of winter. There is sun shining on all the play spots and the days are longer. Boaters are coming into town from other states and the locals are making the transition from snow to flow sports.

This year there is a different sense of anticipation with the bloom. California is in a severe drought which has all but shut down the free flowing river season this year. Many of the runs will get shortened or exceptionally early flows. Certain runs won’t even get a few days of water for boating opportunities. Water is in short supply this year, emphasizing the importance of savoring any and all time on the rivers.

The poppies don’t seem to mind the lack of rain. This is one of the most abundant blooms I have seen in a while and everyone on the water today had the wide-eyed stare you get when you see something really special.

The poppies are a good reminder for me to take nothing for granted on the river and to remember how important it is just to be.

The South Fork American is a lucky river for a lot of reasons. This summer, and every summer for the next 45 years it will have water a minimum of 5 days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day and flows year round every single weekend of the year. The last drought we had in 76-77 we weren’t so lucky. There were no requirements in place or negotiations to assure flows.

I spent several years of my life negotiating a settlement with other Agencies, NGO’s, and the Utility that owns the dams on the river through the FERC hydro relicense process so that there would always be boat-able recreational flows year round. There were many times that I would have happily walked away, giving up in disgust and frustration but something kept me going. Seeing the poppies today on the river made it all worthwhile and was a good reminder that the best things in life are the things we have to work the hardest for.

This river is a hard working river. It supplies power for all of the metropolitan area of Sacramento. It is a water source for agriculture, drinking, and eco-systems. It is now also a predictable source of recreational flows all year long, drought or no drought. Come on out to the South Fork American, any time; it is always flowing!