Sunday, April 1, 2007

A walk on Electra Road

Pete and I went for a nice walk today on Electra Road, along the Mokelumne River. We were out there last weekend, too. Aside from having to keep an eye out for traffic on the narrow road, it's a wonderful place to take a spring foothill river walk.

Electra's always beautiful, but in spring it's especially so. The leafing-out alder and willow stand in bright contrast to the deep blue-green river, and the flowers are fabulous.

Many more flowers were in bloom this week than last. We saw countless California poppies, three kinds of purple lupine, the first Chinese globe lilies, abundant scorpion flowers (phacelia), fringe pod, dudleya, Chinese houses (collinsia), fiddlenecks, popcorn flowers, a couple kinds of brodiaea, some yellow monkeyflowers, and the promise of more to come in the next few weeks.

In addition to the flowers, we watched a pair of common mergansers, a number of black phoebes, and numerous butterflies. Some we knew -- mourning cloaks, swallowtails -- some we didn't, but looked up later.

The mergansers, called "river chickens" by rafting guides, are interesting because the males and females look so different you could easily mistake them for different species.

The Electra run of the Mokelumne really is a "people's river," used by local residents as well as river lovers of all kinds. Today we saw groups having barbecues on the beach, folks watching the river flow by or soaking up the sun, walkers like us with dogs, families with kids, gold panners, teenagers, three cars full of people from Texas, three generations of guys fishing together, and a couple of whitewater kayakers.

Last week we met an entire family of South Asian-American children from Stockton, six in all, ranging in age from about eight to 21. It was their last day of spring break, and the eldest brother had taken everyone for a final day outside. As we left, they were standing side-by-side on the beach throwing rocks across the river -- girls in bright salwar kameez, boys in jeans and t-shirts, everyone barefoot, everyone happy.

The Electra run is also one of the premier kayak training runs in central California. Across the country, cities are building kayak parks to attract tourists and provide recreation for residents, but we have the real thing just south of Jackson.

The Bureau of Land Management may soon recommend the Electra run for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system. Protecting this section of river for future generations means that on beautiful spring days like today, families, kids, anglers, couples, tourists, wildflower watchers, birders, and paddlers can continue to appreciate the magic our local river has to offer.

I cannot imagine life here without it.

You can look up the flowers listed here -- and many more -- at the UC Digital Library.

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