NWNL Spotlight

NWNL Spotlight: California Drought #2
Completed Itinerary: November 16–26, 2014

“California’s Central Valley is a landscape that feeds millions of people
in part by forsaking its own.” — Orion Magazine, Dec. 2014

Basins Covered: Santa Barbara and Kern Counties
Sacramento River Basin (Folsom, Sacramento County)
San Joaquin River Basin (Los Banos to Mendota)
Kings River Basin (Fresno to East Porterville)
Total Distance covered by car: 1,370 miles

Expedition Team: Alison M. Jones, NWNL Director & Expedition Lead
Annette Alexander, NWNL Photographer & Expedition Assistant
Support Team: Bonnie Muench, NWNL Advisor, Expedition Consultant

Sun, Nov 16: Santa Barbara to Modesto

Sites: Estrella River (East of Shandon on Rt 41) – dry creek bed

  • Kern County – fracking rigs
  • Avenal – drought signs, irrigation pipes, farm country
  • Tulare – cattle stockyards

Crops: Nut trees (browning)

  • Citrus trees (sagging)
  • Root-zone irrigation on some trees (a low volume system)

Overnight: Modesto

Mon, Nov 17: Folsom Dam, Mormon Island Auxilliary Dam, Folsom Lake (Sacramento County)

Interview: Greg Morris, photographer

Sites: Brown’s Ravine (Middle and North Fork of American River)

  • Marina
  • Folsom Reservoir Bed: revealing Negro Town and Mormon Hill
  • Salmon Falls Bridge: over American River South Fork
  • Folsom Point
  • Beals Point
  • Granite Bay (via Douglas Boulevard)
  • Folsom Lake stats for the day: 384.27 ft. elevation, 283,930 acre-feet storage (average for this date is 480,880 at 29% capacity, which is 59% of historic average for this date)


  • Flora: willow trees, cottonwood squirrels
  • Fauna: coots, Canada geese

Overnight: Los Banos

Tue, Nov 18: San Joaquin River Basin (San Luis National Wildlife Refuge to Firebaugh)

Interview: Kim Forrest, Refuge Manager, San Luis NWR

Sites: San Luis NWR and Grassland Environmental Education Center

  • San Luis Camp Adobe – ditches and wiers
  • Salt Slough
  • Santa Fe Grade Road to Firebaugh


  • Flora: tule grassland
  • Fauna: 2 tule elk at San Luis NWR
  • Birds: coots, snowy egret, sand hill crane, hooded merganser, killdeer, owl

Overnight: Los Banos

Wed, Nov19: San Joaquin River Basin (Los Banos to Madera)

Interview: Norman Mastin, Former Chair Central Valley Camera Club

Sites: San Luis Canal of California Aquifer

  • Nees Avenue
  • Firebaugh
  • Outer Canal – Washoe Ave.
  • Delta-Mendota Canal & First Lift Canal
  • Santa Fe Grade Rd. to Delta Mendota Canal & Mendota Pool
  • Outside Canal & Helm canal
  • San Joaquin River – via farm road thru field east of Sierra Road
  • Mendota
  • Kings Slough and Mendota Wildlife Area
  • San Joaquin River – at San Mateo Road

Crops: vineyards, cotton, nuts

Species: black-necked stilt, hawk chasing blackbirds, great blue heron, cormorant, Barrows goldeneye, ruddy duck

Overnight: Madera

Thur, Nov 20: San Joaquin River Basin (Mendota to Fresno)

Interview: Mayor Robert Silva of Mendota

Sites: Firebaugh

    • Firebaugh’s ferry site
    • San Joaquin River
    • Paramont’s New Columbia Orchard
  • Mendota, “Cantaloupe Capital of the World,” food line
  • Dos Palos: Chowchilla Canal

Crops: persimmons, pistachios; corn, rice, wheat near Firebaugh where drier

Overnight: Fresno

Fri, Nov 21: Kings River Basin (Fresno to Friant Dam)

Sites: Fresno

    • San Joaquin River: N Bryan Ave, Riverside Golf Course
    • N. Millburn Ave. – were gravel pits supplying roads and cities, now a bird sanctuary & golf
    • Riverview Rd – several benches down to San Joaquin River
  • Friant: Lost Lake (10 days after Salmon Fest) and Friant Bridge
    • Friant Dam – from N Fork Road and from Boat Launch
    • Friant-Kern Canal and Madera-Canal
    • Little Dry Creek

Overnight: Reedley

Sat, Nov 22: Kings River Basin (Reedley to Orange Cove)

Interview: Robert “Gerry” Hixson, Farmer growing almonds and citrus

Sites: Reedley

    • Kings River
    • Manning Avenue – out of business mini-marts
    • Goodfellow Bridge (No Mining sign)
    • dry canal, spray irrigation of orange trees
    • Orange Cove – chat with Andrew Brown, 4th gen ag farmer
      • Uses well for water, which is down this year
      • Replacing grapes w/ mandarin oranges cuz no seeds
      • Replacing old trees with younger that need less water

Crops: almonds, mandarin oranges, lemons, seedless grapes, peaches

Overnight: Reedley

Sun, Nov 23: Kings River Basin (Reedley to Porterville)

Interview: Vaibhar Patel, Innkeeper

Sites: Reedley and Kings River bridge under construction

  • Selma – Raisin Capital of the World
  • Kingsburg – both sides of Kings River: golf course & irrigated lawns
  • Cutler: Ledbetter Park and murals
  • Orosi: chat with Iranian – knows no problems with unemployment
    • chat with Daniel – self-proclaimed activist & fieldworker, knows of no water problems and no regulations
  • St. John’s River, Visalia (dry)
  • Exeter
  • Porterville: Friant-Kern Canal and Tule River

Livestock: beef cattle in Feedlots

Crops: almonds, Meyer lemons, Caracara oranges, pecans, persimmons, pomegranates, cantaloupes

Overnight: Porterville

Mon, Nov 24: Kings River Basin (Porterville & East Porterville)

Interview: Fred and Freddie Beltran; and Cheryl Perine

Sites: Porterville (many Main St shops closed) but fountains still going

    • Tule River Bridge – river dry all year
    • TriK Truss Co – informal chat: they’ve been bringing in water for 2 years while EPA has been working on their well (contaminated by nearby gas station)
  • East Porterville
    • Water Distribution Site run by the Beltran Family
    • Homes with no running water (many moved here during Dustbowl from OK, TX, and AR)
  • Lake Success, formed by Success Dam on Tule River (built 1961) – provides flood control, water for irrigation and recreation

Crops: citrus, olives, grapes, peach, pear, plum, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, beans, alfalfa, corn

Overnight: Porterville

Tue, Nov 25: Return to Santa Barbara