Tuesday, March 16, 2010

rafting the San Joaquin river

Got the ol' flat bottom Jon boat ready for the river and took it out a week ago to see what's been happening on the San Joaquin River. It's just a small 14ft boat, good enough for up to 3 people, but it's perfect for the river when the water levels get really low in the summer time. With the flat bottom, you just pull up the motor and skim right over the sand bars to get to the fishing spots.
I haven't picked up my fishing license yet this year, but I need to get it soon, because we could see and hear tons of fish jumping in the river around us. The purpose of the trip wasn't for fishing this time though, it was just to see how long it would take to float with the current from the Las Palmas boat launch in Patterson, to the Grayson landing at Laird Park. I'd floated from Crows Landing to Patterson before, and it only took a few hours, but traveling by the twists and turns of the San Joaquin is a lot longer than the distance that the crow flies and decided to try it for myself.
I was surprised to see so much wildlife along the river. Only using a trolling motor and some paddles, we were able to sneak up on a lot of wildlife that would have otherwise heard us a lot earlier had we had an outboard. This was one of a handful of beavers that we'd seen between Patterson and Grayson, as well as quite a few other river faring mammals that were probably muskrats or some kind of river rat.
Although there was alot of birds and animals abound, it is always quite sad to see how polluted our portion of the San Joaquin River is. It may look like the chocolate river from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but you definitely don't want to drink these fluids. With the high water levels, alot of the trash has been washed away, however, more trash from upstream has washed down and become lodged anywhere it can. Besides the entire river being lined in some sort of trash, these barrels of who knows what and two half sunken boats could be seen.
But it was still a very beautiful day, a little sun, a little clouds. Many many Red Tailed Hawks, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Mallards, Mergansers, and Cormorants could easily be seen. This natural by way may be very close to where we all live, but it seemed a world away that afternoon.
I doubt many folks are seen traveling this water way that was once the pathway for paddle boats headed to Grayson, Newman, or Gustine. Probably why these cows were so curious.
Also passed by this skumpy looking teepee as we neared closer to Grayson.

I knew we were getting real close when we could see the inmates of the Stanislaus County Honor Farm. I had no idea that the river was so close to the correctional facility, but when we floated by, the inmates all came up to the fence to ask if we had caught any fish.

All in all, the trip took about 3.5 hours, way shorter than I originally anticipated. As we pulled around Laird Park and docked the boat, I noticed and photographed this strange looking water fowl. I've looked in a few bird identification books and have come up clueless as to what this bird may be. I'm guessing it's some sort of goose with an interesting color mutation on its plumage, but it seemed like a permanent resident of Laird Park.