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April showers bring May flows to the Gualala River

The low flow winter drought conditions that prevailed on the Gualala River were erased by late April rainfalls that scoured the gravel beds and flooded bars and floodplains.

Aquatic wildlife that breed in well-oxygenated flowing water on coarse gravel and cobbles, like foothill yellow-legged frogs, got a reprieve. So did recreational users of the river.

Whether this year will be a wash or not for steelhead, which suffered dewatering of the Wheatfield Fork below the Annapolis Road bridge at Skaggs Springs Road last August, remains to be seen.

Continuous-thread channel with strong, clear spring flows extends upstream from Clarks Crossing. May 2009
A continuous-thread channel with strong, clear spring flows extends upstream from Clarks Crossing on the Wheatfield Fork. May 17, 2009.

Fuller Creek, May 2009
Fuller Creek, a tributary of the Wheatfield Fork, recovered quickly from a pulse of turbidity due to heavy late April rainfall. May 7, 2009. No silt or sand was delivered by either winter or spring flows, preserving the coarsened gravel, cobble, and boulder bed.

Foothill yellow-legged frog egg masses adhere to cobbles near Haupt Creek, May 2009
Foothill yellow-legged frog egg masses adhere to cobbles in the bed of the Wheatfield Fork near Haupt Creek, May 17, 2009.

A rare mid-May day of riding fast currents under the Annapolis Road bridge at Clarks Crossing
A non-scientific human indicator of healthy spring river flows! A rare mid-May day of riding fast currents under the Annapolis Road bridge at Clarks Crossing.


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Dewatering: Summer 2008

Upper reaches have water – and fish
Six years ago this section of Grasshopper Creek was filled with clay and fines; now it's boulder, cobble and gravel
In Buckeye Creek, water is flowing continuously and steelhead are abundant – unlike the de-watered lower reaches of this summer’s Wheatfield and South Forks.

Gualala River: Going, going . . . gone
8/31/08 Clark's Crossing - the last pool has shrunk, leaving only yellow-legged frog tadpoles gulping for air
Channel pools in the Gualala River continued to diminish unevenly in late summer. The areas of strongest pool drawdown and dewatering are in the vicinity of water-demanding land uses (vineyards, gravel wells associated with mining and timber harvest, and commercial water trucking) adjacent to deep gravels.

Water hits the road in Annapolis Water hits the road in Annapolis
Water trucks become a common sight in Annapolis during summer months as wells and reservoirs run dry in this water scarce area.

Summertime Dewatering: Slow but Sure Death to the River!
8/19/08 Wheatfield Fork near Clark's Crossing
As summer progressed, more and more main-stem, downstream reaches have developed intermittent surface flows characterized by a series of slowly drying pools, or worse – up to hundreds of linear feet of stream without any surface flow at all!

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