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The Two Seasons of the Salinas River in Paso Robles

Barb's hobbies are photography and studying nature. She gardens and takes photo walks to explore nature and capture it on camera.

The Salinas River as it Was Meant to Be

Children Playing in the Salinas River

Children Playing in the Salinas River

I Grew Up Before I Saw a Real River

When I was growing up, I always had a desire to see a real river – one with water in it. I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and we were always crossing bridges over the Los Angeles River, but that was kind of a joke. I think I was in my early twenties and living in Long Beach before I ever saw water in that river, and that was after a series of rain storms. I remember how hard we laughed when I read that someone from out of state had asked for a permit to kayak down the Los Angeles River in summer.

I continued to live in the Los Angeles area until I was about 35. We moved to Ventura County where, of course, we still had the ocean nearby, but no flowing rivers that I was aware of.

I saw my first real rivers in the 1980’s when we took family vacations to Oregon and Washington. The Rogue River became a familiar rest stop. The Renton library we often visited while living temporarily in Auburn, Washington, was right beside the Cedar River. Of course to even get to Washington, we had to parallel the Willamette River and cross it many times until we finally got to see and cross the broad Columbia River in Portland.

Later, when we vacationed in the Northeast, we saw several Rivers, and had crossed Old Man River himself on the way. I had always longed to see the Mississppi, since I’d read so much about it.

In Massachusetts there seemed to be rivers everywhere. For one who grew up in Los Angeles County it was exciting to see so many rivers. Two special ones there were the Charles River. near Boston, and the Concord River in Minute Man National Park, Concord, near the famous  North Bridge.

On the way home we saw the Platte River, which we had also read about in our study of the Oregon Trail. Still, though, I’d never lived near a river I could see on a daily basis and observe through its seasonal changes.

The Charles River, Massachusetts

The Charles River, with the Boston Skyline in the Background

The Charles River, with the Boston Skyline in the Background

The Missississippi River

My daughter is looking out at the "Old Man River" from the balcony of the Welcome Center at Le Claire, Iowa, in 1989.

My daughter is looking out at the "Old Man River" from the balcony of the Welcome Center at Le Claire, Iowa, in 1989.

Concord River, Massachusetts

This is the Concord River near the famous North Bridge in Minute Man National Park

This is the Concord River near the famous North Bridge in Minute Man National Park

South Platte River

This view of the South Platte River was taken near Fort Casper, Wyoming in 1989.

This view of the South Platte River was taken near Fort Casper, Wyoming in 1989.

The Salinas River in April, 2010

The Salinas River is most likely to be seen from February to June, depending upon the amount of rain that falls in  North San Luis Obispo County

The Salinas River is most likely to be seen from February to June, depending upon the amount of rain that falls in North San Luis Obispo County

Is There an Important River in Your Life?

Lawrence Moore Park in Paso Robles

The Seasons of the Salinas River

Now I do live near a river – the disappearing Salinas River. It runs through Paso Robles where I own a house. Near the house is Lawrence Moore Park, and the Salinas River runs through the park. The Salinas River Trail also runs through that park, and follows the river. I have hiked it many times in all seasons. In the map above, you can see my house on the corner of Creeksand Lane and Riverbank. This map picture was obviously taken during the dry season.

The Salinas River in Paso Robles basically has two seasons – the wet season and the dry season. North San Luis Obispo County, where I live, is almost always in a drought. Cities restrict water usage almost all year, except for some years in winter. But if we are fortunate enough to get a lot of rain, the normally dry riverbed fills and the Salinas River flows.

When it flows, we have a real river – a river swift enough and deep enough to kill, as it did again this winter when a homeless man climbed onto a sandbar to sleep and was drowned when the river rose. If this were in Australia, the Salinas River here would probably be called a billabong -- since it's filled with water only during the rainy season.

The video below was taken in April, 2010. I saw a calm place at the edge of the river with a lot of algae, and I knew I should find tadpoles there. At the beginning of the video you get some nice views of the entire width of the river and you see its current. Then I zero in on the tadpoles. It would be a very peaceful scene if that motor-scooter  weren't riding back and forth along Riverbank.

You Can Find Tadpoles in the Salinas River in Spring

The Braided Salinas River

In this shot you can see the "braids" flowing around the sand bars.

In this shot you can see the "braids" flowing around the sand bars.

The Salinas is a Braided River

From the Salinas River Trail, you see a river divided in most places by sand bars like little islands, with shrubs and grasses growing on them. That means you can't always see the water that is closest to the opposite bank, and that's where the water lasts the longest.

In the picture below, you can see that most of the sand bars are covered. The river flows all the way to the bank. Below that, you will see that the river this year even came over the bank in some places and into the access paths.

A reliable source told me that long before I lived here, the Salinas River actually flooded not only the park area, but also actually flooded some of the houses in the Riverbank tract next to the river. So far, I've never seen even the park flooded.

Are you a flood survivor?

The Wide Salinas River

This was taken in March, 2011 and the river is as wide as I've ever seen it after a season of record rainfall.

This was taken in March, 2011 and the river is as wide as I've ever seen it after a season of record rainfall.

Salinas River Creeps into Access Path on Shore

This was taken in March, 2011, after a season of record rainfall. For the first time I saw the water actually coming ashore in many places.

This was taken in March, 2011, after a season of record rainfall. For the first time I saw the water actually coming ashore in many places.

The Salinas River Begins to Disappear

Water is beginning to disappear from the Salinas Riverbed in June and July

Water is beginning to disappear from the Salinas Riverbed in June and July

Now Let's Look at the Salinas River During the Dry Season

As the rain stops falling, bit by bit the river begins to dry up -- at least you stop seeing it in the riverbed. In the photo above you can see that much of the river has already disappeared. You can see the sand is still dark. Probably if you were to completely cross the dry places, there would be a bit of stream left near the far bank.

When the riverbed is dry, it's not empty. That's when people walk into it to explore. The side closest to the park and trail dry first, so people will walk across to see if there is still water on the far side. Often they will bring their dogs and let them run free. Perhaps that's one reason many people want to see Lawrence Moore Park become an official dog park for the City of Paso Robles.


The Dogs Love the Dry Riverbed

People often bring their dogs down to play in the Salinas riverbed.

People often bring their dogs down to play in the Salinas riverbed.

Access Path to the Dry Salinas River

Access to dry Salinas Riverbed

Access to dry Salinas Riverbed

The Dry Season of the Salinas River

The dry season starts sometime between late May and July. By then you are lucky to find even a trickle in this part of Larry Moore Park. You may find more water in the northern most parts of the Salinas River Trail under and on the other side of the Niblick Bridge. If you contrast the picture above with the picture of the river coming up into the access path, you will realize how dry the river is in the summer and fall. You can see that the river has left its bed and disappeared from view.

Below is a view of the river from the east part of the riverbed looking west. Just north of here in the dry season, you can see jackrabbits racing across the riverbed at dusk. They are so fast I've never been able to capture one with my camera.

I'm always sad when the Salinas River disappears each year. But if I could take the river being full for granted all year, I wouldn't have the joy of seeing it reappear again each spring after the rains. Each season has its own kind of beauty, and I've learned to appreciate both.


Looking Northwest from the East Bank

Where the jackrabbits cross the dry riverbed

Where the jackrabbits cross the dry riverbed

The Dry Salinas Riverbed beside Lawrence Moore Park

Plants that grow in the Salinas Riverbed all year

Plants that grow in the Salinas Riverbed all year

Sights in the Dry Salinas Riverbed

The dry riverbed is full of interesting driftwood and parts of fallen trees from the banks above.

The dry riverbed is full of interesting driftwood and parts of fallen trees from the banks above.

Wet or Dry, There's Always Something Interesting to See at the Salinas River from Larry Moore Park

I like the river best when it's flowing. I look forward to it each year after the rains. I'm disappointed when it doesn't make its appearance above the ground. When the sand around it is wet, it's like a canvas for assorted footprints and patterns. It's peaceful just to sit and watch it.

When I walk in the dry riverbed, I see a variety of plant and animal life. Birds, squirrels and rabbits play in the brush or trees on the banks. I can often see them best from the riverbed. Once I even saw a large cross that appeared to be a memorial in someone's yard as I walked by. I never did find out the story behind it.

Wet or dry, I know a walk by or in the river will always provide plenty of opportunities to discover something new.

Wet Sand Is Like a Canvas

Impressions in the wet sand

Impressions in the wet sand

A Handy Bench Where One Can Watch the River Flow By

One can sit here to watch the river go by

One can sit here to watch the river go by

A Squirrel on the Riverbank

Squirrel on the east bank of the river

Squirrel on the east bank of the river

Cross on Private Property Can Only Be Seen from the River

Mystery cross on east bank of Salinas River in Paso Robles can only be seen from the river

Mystery cross on east bank of Salinas River in Paso Robles can only be seen from the river

© 2011 Barbara Radisavljevic

Comments

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on April 13, 2011:

Simone and Sandy,

I went for a two -hour walk again yesterday and took another 200 pictures while I can, since the river has lost about two-thirds of it's water since I took the wet season pictures two weeks ago. Amazing.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on April 13, 2011:

Looks like a wonderful place. Great photos too.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 12, 2011:

Oh, what a lovely place! Great Hub!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on April 12, 2011:

Eiddwen, thanks for visiting and rating up. As you can tell, I love taking those pictures.

MysteryPlanet, I would have loved growing up with access to a river. A river is a great place to observe nature and enjoy it. Even a stream would have done nicely.

Ancillotti, thanks for taking the time to come by and share my rivers.

Ancillotti from Brasil, Vitoria - ES on April 12, 2011:

Beautiful Hub and useful! Thank for shared with us!

MysteryPlanet on April 12, 2011:

Beautiful! I have lived around creeks and rivers most of my life and spent a lot of time playing in the streams as a kid

Eiddwen from Wales on April 12, 2011:

A great hub with pictures to finish it off nicely. I rate this one up.

Thank you for sharing and take care.

Eiddwen.

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