Ideas to better river conditions shared at Headwaters to Ocean Descent
Almost 100 people took part in the Splash Mob event over the weekend, the conclusion of a nine day trip down the Russian River, starting at Lake Mendocino. Conservation nonprofit LandPaths and Russian Riverkeeper hosted the Headwaters to Ocean Descent with Supervisor James Gore. In the cool morning air at the beach in Monte Rio the first half of the two-day Splash Mob launched kayaks and several canoes into the chilly water as vacationers and beach goes watched. On Sunday, many faces were familiar but new people replaced the ones who could not ride for the whole paddle.
The stream of about 40 boats cruised the water down to Casini Ranch Family Campground in Jenner where many camped before the final day of paddling to mouth of the river.. While the trip was almost entirely manageable for beginners, strong winds pushed back on paddlers as they powered their way under the Coast Highway bridge near where Highways 1 and 116 meet. The day went without incident and everyone made it to the shore safely.
Along the way, conversations were held as long as boaters could stick together. As skill levels and stamina were tested, the groups mingled, drifted apart and came back together. Backgrounds varied but many on the trip were in someway connected to the river through their jobs and education or were just interested in what the event had to offer. Biologists answered questions about ecology while water district workers explained regulations and policies, among other conversations.
Fred Euphrat, a Santa Rosa Junior College forestry instructor who holds a doctorate in watershed management, said, “People need to live up to their commitments.” The former Healdsburg resident, now living in Sebastopol and was glad to see people talking about what to do next to keep up the momentum of restoring the Russian River.
“This is a time for people to stop turning their backs to the river, and facing it for the recreation and joy that it brings but also facing it for the delicate environmental process that it represents,” he said.
On Saturday night, at the halfway point of the trip, Gina Casini joined a large campfire group to share her experience as a lifelong property owner and business owner that depends on a healthy river to attract campers and day users of Casini Ranch. She said the fish population in the Russian River is nearly gone in comparison to what it was 30 years ago when she fished with her father. “It’s gone, it’s just gone. There’s no bluegill, there’s no catfish, there’s no crappie (a species of sunfish), very little steelhead.”
To bring the fish back, their habitat needs to be restored, as there is no place for them to hide, Casini said. Efforts are being made to improve conditions for salmon and other fish headed upstream to spawn. Large root balls from trees are brought in and dropped into the river, providing a place for the fish to rest. On a more positive note, Casini said her father, who passed away about 10 years ago, had told her the river was getting better compared to what he saw over his lifetime, going back to the 1930s.