Yesterday I helped out with Foothill Conservancy's umpteenth Mokelumne River Cleanup on the river's Electra run. Spending the day down by the river reminded me how much the Mokelumne offers something for everyone.
The land-locked Kokanee salmon were spawning, so the beach was full of people fishing. There were tiny kids with tiny fishing rods, just extracted from their plastic and cardboard packaging; teens with rods bent and fish on; whole families together, fishing and playing on the beach. They were joined by more seasoned anglers, too -- men with waders and better gear and nets --who were reeling in fish after fish.
The river was low, so the Kokanee were easy to spot in the water. It looked like you could walk in and simply net them. I heard one young guy say, "I have fish lounging against my legs."
Raptors could see the Kokanee, too. A mature bald eagle and an osprey were diving for lunch, oblivious to the volunteers picking up trash, anglers on the banks, and kayakers navigating the rapids.
Farther downstream, a fly fisherman was working just below the rapid know as The Slot. Below the Highway 49 bridge, a couple was panning for gold.
The fall color on the river is especially wonderful this year. The California grapes, oaks, cottonwood and other riparian plants are trending from pale yellow to deepest red. Contrast that with the river's range of blues and greens, and it's hard to imagine anything more lovely.
Since Electra is heavily used, some river lovers avoid it. There's plenty of evidence of damage to the river banks (why is it that people insist on driving right down to a river that's only 50 feet from the road -- even going so far as to pull out big boulders put there to keep cars off the bank?), and sometimes a fair amount of trash. One couple working the cleanup said they hadn't been there for years because it's so popular. But after a few hours at Electra, they were once again taken in by the river's beauty.
People who aren't river-oriented tend to forget that we have this wonderful resource for recreation, relaxation, and recharge a short drive south of Jackson. But plenty of people know it's there. And as our county becomes more urbanized, places like Electra, where we can get out with friends and family and bask in the glory of nature, will be even more precious than they are today.
You can help keep the Mokelumne a river future generations can enjoy on a fine fall day by signing on to support including the Mokelumne in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.