Friday, May 9, 2014

Anza's Dairy & the Lessons Learned

 Understanding the importance of Riparian Ecosystems & making Practical Application in Restoration of things observed
Image: Regional Conservation Authority

San Jacinto River west of Hwy 74 bridge across from  Cranston Station

Traditionally when mankind created settlements which became towns and eventually large cities, they mostly were located on the banks of rivers and/or delta outlets into the world's oceans. Their economies demanded it and they of course were in great need of available supply of fresh water. Seriously, look on any world map at all of today's present cities anywhere around the globe and view where they are mostly located. Of course in today's world of modern technological advances, it is no longer necessary for any city to be located within close proximity to such an ecosystem. Many centuries ago, the world's most well known classical rivers meandered this way or that through a dense forest of riparian woodlands. This includes the once lush green San Jacinto River Valley in which such a lush environment was actually described by those first Spanish explorers as predominantly Cottonwoods, Sycamores, etc. But we also know from other journal contributors that these woodlands held such food bearing plants as California Fan Palms with their dates, Elderberry trees, roses and Fray Pedro Font made mention of native grapes everywhere, starting in Bautista Canyon. Such an overflow of variety also filled with vast backwater marshlands on either side of the heavily dense old growth forests along the main river channel attracted a myriad of waterfowl along with large and small animals which would be lured by the abundance of natural food sources.

Image - Wikimedia
In my last post on this subject, I posed a question to the illustration here and asked, "Can anyone else picture or visualize in your mind's eye the lush San Jacinto River Valley floodplains with California Grizzly Bears fishing for Southern California Steelhead Trout as they make their way east to the South, Middle and North Fork Canyons to spawn ?" Of course anything would be possible if the climate and the natural hydrological circumstances I brought up were untouched by man. The native Southern California Steelhead Trout could spawned in the San Jacinto River, and grizzly bears may well have roamed its shores in search of food. So lush was this landscape and so unusual was it in an otherwise dry country that no doubt the river valleys were attractive to even the Native Americans long before the Spaniards set foot in these valleys land expeditionary  discovery and unfortunately proceeded to dismantle the the natural world's life sustaining mechanisms in this region which struck them with awe in the first place. 

Image: Wikimedia

Luiseño Indians Mazestone Petroglyphs, Hemet CA
Getting back to the possibility of bears roaming the riparian woodlands of the San Jacinto Valley. One thing that has peaked my curiosity recently over the last year of whether or not bears (especially Grizzly) existed in the San Jacinto Valley, comes from a documentary I viewed about a sort of new age eccentric who was often described as a self-proclaimed grizzly bear guru. A book was written about him with the title "The Grizzly Maze". He was known as the "Grizzly Man", real name Timothy Treadwell, who had a codename for the remote riparian area of Kaflia Bay which he coined the "The Grizzly Maze" because of the labyrinth of tunnels in the thick riparian underbrush made by bears who came to the area for Salmon fishing. Bears often come to the same areas year after year because it is known by them where rich food sources are dependable and reliable. Riparian areas are clearly rich sources for many types or varieties of foods. Think of all the small fruits and berries which may have existed in the rich lush San Jacinto Valley. Think also of the plethora of insects which bears love. The California Fan Palm also has one of the richest sweet tasting dates, although the flesh is minimal compared to Mid-East and North African Date Palms. I know because I use to snack on them when working in Palm Springs. Still what is it that bears love more than all other foods, isn't it Sweets ? While the priest Francisco Garcès is the only one to mention the presence of Dates as foods offered by the natives when they were close to Park Hill, clearly the others saw and ate of them, but deemed them of little worth for mentioning. Still, Bears would have had a field day with the date cluster fronds. The spread of these trees would have even accelerated by numerous seeds dispense by means of their feces everywhere. In fact throughout this valley today and especially in older neighbourhoods there are many very old examples of these trees in the landscaping. 

Image - torreto

Can you imagine getting caught in a Grizzly Maze at the wrong time ? If the Maze Petroglyph is really an annimation of an actual Grizzly Maze, I can ponder why Native Americans found other uses for fire than the popular ones propagated by fire ecologists. But seriously, could the Natives have observed and followed those same Grizzly bears to some of their favourite foraging grounds which would have also provided a wealth of food catches for themselves ? Hmmmm, so what were those Luiseño Indians of the Hemet & San Jacinto valleys really telling us in some of their petroglyphs ? Could the Hemet and Diamond Valley Mazestone petroglyphs (image above left) have been a representation of the extensive labyrinth of vegetation tunnels created by Grizzly and/or other black bears in the riparian system surrounding all sides of the river that Francisco Garcès recorded seeing in the San Jacinto Valley when he ventured through there in March of 1775 ? If you check out the image below, you can see the trail and tunnel or pathway labyrinths observed in the riparian habitat at Kaflia Bay aka "the grizzly maze" of Alaska.

Kaflia Bay aka "the grizzly maze"

Interestingly, Chaparral and Wildlife Biologist Richard Halsey has researched and studied about the California Grizzly Bear's ability to shaped and form the native chaparral vegetation habitats it once lived and thrived in. See Richard's blog link below which goes into depth on the Grizzly's chaparral tunnels.
Image: Richard Halsey
I have tried to research a bit on the meaning of such the Hemet Mazestone petroglyphs which seem to have been common in the southwest and have found a couple of interesting anomalies. Mostly they seem to be a mystery for sure, though some want to attribute them to some religious symbolism, I found that many of their locations are close to water sources and some associated with a bears paw or foot. Some however are also in the canyonland country of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, so the maze art could represent canyonland mazes, but also with bears present. But it's also interesting that many glyph sites with the canyon maze sites also have Bear's foot or an animal figure representing a large bear on the same rock face associated some of these maze glyphs. Well who knows, I am quite capable of creating my own version of a story like any of the experts with credentials, but still, some of the coincidences are uncanny. But it is nevertheless a fact that Garcès did specifically mention seeing many of the bears while journeying through the San Jacinto Valley to Mystic Lake. Bears love riparian habitats and follow traditional pathways to food sources. Many bears would be present in the warmer food rich valleys below at the winter time of year foraging for many food stuffs. They would have made the same type of exact tunnel mazes as those coined by Treadwell up in the river delta in Alaska. Now as an aside interest, one wonders about the importance of the presence of bears in Southern California riparian woodlands. Certainly the Native Luiseño Indians who were known for their petroglyphs would have used these same tunnels for their own hunting and gathering ventures. What are the positives of the Bears presence on not only chaparral and large forested ecosystems of the high country, but also floodplain riparian ecosystems ?

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

Vaqueros lasso a grizzly bear
This is where practical application comes in. All of the wild larger animals in Southern California (Grizzly, Black Bears, Elk ???) who would have had the largest impact on riparian vegetation maintenance  have for the most part been eliminated permanently. The Spanish were the first to eradicate the bears from the very land they were determined to tame for their own personal commercial ventures and this was further exacerbated by the influx of the American Pioneers from the east looking for their own slice of the pie. What changes occurred within riparian woodlands as a result of the absence of large animals, one can only guess. They are gone and so are those forests, so research, studying and pondering our next move is greatly handicapped. Most of the riparian ecosystem habitats of the southwest in general are only a whisper of their former glory. Most of the former streams inside urban environments that we are aware of (if not concreted over) are extremely dense with lack of open spaces within them. Periodically the various government maintenance workers come in and obliterate what vegetation there is for storm channel vegetation removal purposes. What is left is as abnormal as a concrete channel. Some of this rapid dense growth may be the result of intense or excessive eutrophication (high nutrient pollution which acts as Miracle-Gro for plants) coming as a result of Human filth washed down storm drains. Often times these streams are also weed choked like other habitats with many invasives turned loose as a result of the close proximity to urban gardens and landscapes. And as a result of the human siphoning of dependable water sources, many of these riparian places now dry up and large amounts of dead vegetation results within such ecosystems. Clearly, Humans do have a responsibility when they deliberately disrupt these finely tuned riparian ecosystems once they have disturbed them. What was once finely tuned has been piece by piece dismantled of it's various system sustainable mechanisms which are incapable of any further future function. Maintenance then becomes nothing more than a year after year continual fight to maintain these sterile artificial alternatives. This is where Biomimetics comes to play. Take a look at the animated illustration I found below from the Arroyo Seco Riparian Restoration Project.
Biomimetics and Riparian Ecosystem Designing 

(Click here to Zoom larger image)

image: Riverside County Flood Control

Here is an extremely interesting idea for slowing water down by means of a floodplain detour and allowing a healthier vegetative community which in turn allows for more effient water percolation while filtering it better at the same time. It also provides greater habitats for both wildlife and people. What struck me too when I first saw this architectural drawing from the Arroyo Seco Project for creating a wider floodplain aside from the actual narrow channel of the riverbed, was that it is in miniature what I described with regards the San Jacinto River Valley on it's historical grander scale and the 1980 flooding of the city of San Jacinto from the upstream breach of the levee which shut off the natural flow of the floodplain. The San Jacinto Valley should always have had been allowed a much wider channel from the very start of development as opposed to the present forced narrow corridor it has now shoved up against North Mountain where it is today. By their very flawed human nature this was never allowed when the area was originally settled because personal speculative economic fortunes were at stake. Then of course there was all that ignorance thingy and the fact that most didn't automatically care enough to consider finding out the truth of the matter we know as pros & cons of proceeding or not with a planned rearrangement of the landscape. In fact many of the housing & other commercial interests (which is really the motive behind re-channeling to facilitate Human economic interest which brings more tax revenues) in the floodplain areas should never have been allowed in the first place. While one may view from the ground what looks to be a large flood corridor as it exists presently today in some photographs, it's actually not capable for handling the often massive waterflow capacity which charges like Spain's running with the bulls chaos out of those mountain canyons when all it's side tributaries are firing on all pistons at once. I've posted a recent study in my references section at the bottom of this post which points out the problems regarding forcing Nature's hydrological components into narrow channels even when it seems to be for the greater economic economic and human safety considerations. It basically deals with the Missouri River and what the Lewis & Clark expedition actually saw when they explored new things like these Spaniards with their own American Empire building ambitions.

The other problem with Human rearranging of river courses by means of concrete channeling is that most of the water which falls as rain in Southern California is purposefully expedited downstream quicker and is lost forever into the Pacific Ocean. I found this to be true even when I lived in San Diego County. Even when it rained lightly in San Diego County's own inland empire, most of what falls ends up as asphalt street runoff and the Mission Dam area quite often will always look like it's at major flood stage, even when there are no heavy rains. I am most certain that way back in historical times, this region (El Cajon, Santee, Lakeside valleys) didn't always flood with massive amounts of runoff with almost every single rainstorm. Even when it did rain heavy, most of the healthy vegetated topography would have allowed more of the important water percolation or infiltration into the soils which is necessary for downstream water sustenance in riparian ecosystems during the dry season by means of various springsWater would still end up eventually into the Pacific Ocean anyway, but at a much later time frame and slower level of pace. Other system community members such as beavers and believe it or not bears would have contributed to the slowing down of water as it pursued it's ultimate path of least resistance goal to the Ocean by means of gravity and other physics. Look up most older historical topo maps, especially Thomas Bros and you'll find a common notation by means of symbols of the exact location of Springs. Many were named, but many others were not. Question is why ? Wasn't necessary, but Springs were more important to travelers in times past than today. They were the rest stops of the day. You should however know that most of these are now dried up, gone and long forgotten mostly by the cattlemen who used them. I know because in the surrounding Anza Valley area where I once lived for over two decades, I actually made a deliberate attempt to find each and every one of these on my old Thomas Guide which took a little over a decade. Most of the springs without names were fashioned into cattle water concrete and/or stone troughs from seeps other small water anomalies. Today these springs hold little importance to the modern day person and therefore omitted from all newer maps. Okay change of subject:
Biomimetics and Hydraulic Redistribution
Image animation: DawsonLab

Okay, here I go again. Apparently I have to bring up the essentially important subject of hydraulic redistribution regarding the very foundational underground rooting network which allows everything above ground that we see and enjoy to become an ongoing perpetual  sustainable reality over countless lifetimes. This is even partially why I even created "Earth's Internet" in the first place, even though many of the subjects may seem boring to short modern day attention spans. Let's consider the illustration above for a moment. Let's pretend that this cartoon animation illustrates the huge old growth Cottonwood trees on the present normally dry sandy floor of the San Jacinto Valley floodplain. These deeper rooted old growth riparian ecosystem trees which could also include California Sycamores would have been efficient performers of that all important hydraulic descent even during dormancy, even as the #3 option in the graph illustrates. Such interesting mechanical phenomena would also have been present during drier times, maybe even prolonged macro-climate drought events where a sustained high water table untouched by any human concerns would have allowed the lush system to maintain itself. The challenge however in artificially rebuilding any type of vegetation ecosystem is education on exactly what type of  vegetation components act as the best Hydraulic redistribution mechanisms. I researched this for many years up in Anza when living within the predominantly Chaparral Plant Community up in Anza California. This actually helped in establishing pines and oaks in remote locations with little or no water available for conventional irrigation. While I found several candidates, Redshank or Ribbonwood [Adenostoma sparsifolium] and a close second by it's evil tough wildfire causing cousin Chamise or Greasewood [Adenostoma fasciculatum]. Kidding of course about the wildfire thingy, that's more about attitude and prejudice more than truth based on knowledge. In the riparian system it's easy, Cottonwoods, Sycamores, and in some cases within this region Mesquite trees. Some willows also may have value during temporary dry period years, but not always. Other trees for the San Jacinto system also may be Arizona Ash which has large populations on the valley floor as it emerges out of Bee Canyon along the Indian Creek water course and floodplain.
(Bit of a side note regarding White Alder (Alnus rhombifolia) in the San Jacinto River valley)
During the wetter years when both San Jacinto River and Bautista Creek ran all year, or even when it trickled by flood comparisons, White Alders flourished even in low regions of their valley floors where there were extremely hot temperatures. In Bautista Creek they were present even in the basin catchment behind the diversion dam. In the San Jacinto River they would often show up as far as the river flowed towards Mystic Lake. If this happened in the 1980s, then they were present back when the Spaniards came through. These trees are almost always associated with continual moisture & cooler climate conditions and that's true that they do thrive in such situations. However in there are other unique instances given surface water presence, these not so deeply rooted trees can even become  successful anywhere in the hot valleys below. For example, when during the same 1980s flooding event period when Tahquitz Creek and other Palm Springs water courses flowed year long into the main channel of Whitewater River down the greater Coachella Valley, these trees sprouted all along the water courses here and there. Even when temps topped well over 100+ degrees Fahrenheit (40+ C). I know because I was amazed when I went on my weekly visits to one of my clients at Mac Magruder Chevolet whose property sets next to the creek on Hwy 111 in downtown Palm Springs. The problem comes when the surface water goes away. For a short while they may flourish and sustain themselves from below ground water, but they eventually fry in the intense heat even when that goes further deeper into the soil. They are not deeply rooted like Cottonwood or Sycamore trees. Hence they would make a lousy candidate for establishing trees with great hydraulics potential. However, from a biomimcry point of view, if one needs to stabilize an actual streambed with permanently running water, they would be the best at holding tightly together the streambed. Only then world the shallower rooted Alder be your best choice. In Idyllwild along Strawberry Creek when water levels were low, you could see why the dominance of the White Alders was a good thing. These shallow rooted trees weave their shallow surface root systems in and around boulders and large cobblestone river rocks so tightly and close together, not even large massive floods seem to be able to budge anything about the main bed. At the same time, this physical feature also makes them a terrible candidate for lawn trees as the constant mowing shaves off the tops of these lateral roots create a pattern of burn mark outlines in the grass as the roots grow larger with age and scaring is horrible as well. But once again, these are shallow roots and need permanent water flow. Here in cool wet Scandinavia they grow on mountainsides far away from Creeks and therefore in no need of a water course.

Given these facts, hydraulic redistributing from the deepest roots of old growth Cottonwoods and Sycamores would have played the most important role in sustaining the entire system even during the drier water table fluctuating periods. The main problem I find when it actually comes to the subject of hydraulic redistribution is that you rarely if ever hear it ever discussed. Other than a handful of not well known intellectually written pieces often times behind some ridiculous Paywall, does anyone really hear about this info anywhere being discussed ? No and they should. This is where such basic fundamentals on any and all plants prior to engineering an ecosystem based on the discipline behind Biomimcry which in this case simply means having knowledge of what each riparian component is and what it accomplishes within that system is imperative and where true architectural design becomes a real success. But I'll go further. Those who sign up as volunteers for many of these land or habitat restoration projects should be required to go through an education program where they actually understand the underground system mechanisms of the above ground paradise they are attempting to save. But lets go even further, the school systems should have such subjects have as part of their science programs which would include these same basic fundamentals in regards how Earth's ecosystems work, function together and maintain over the long haul. Dump the old failed dogma of "Survival of the Fittest" and replace it with "Survival of the Mutually Cooperative". The biggest road block to all of this is these suggestions while many will agree upon, they are simply far to logical to be implemented into any government run program irrespective of the country. Sadly the world's authority just doesn't work that way under the present system. With the present disastrous water shortages in all of California, better uses of major floodplains for percolation purposes should be looked at more closely. This may even mean relocating folks, but that would be another major headache issue. Of course, then there is also the issue with regards street contamination of water which might restrict drinking water quality. At the very least, public parks and other utility usage needs could be satisfied. Take a look at the two comparable photos below of where the present San Jacinto River Channel runs close to the western end of Soboba Hot Springs Resort. 

Image: Mojave Jones (Panoramio)
Notice the main channel to the left hand side which has been forced up against North Mountain's foothills and the overflow flood channel on the right. Also notice the island of native vegetation in the middle which separates them  them ? Below now, notice the flood overflow on the right hand side becomes more apparent when full of excessive water overflow is at flooding stage. When rivers and streams are forced against the natural physical demands of how  water flow should proceed, the narrower channel creates stronger force which allows scouring and deep erosion to take place. Especially when vegetation is removed. If vegetation is still present, then it won't be for long. Keep in mind in regards to the rain photo below, this is not truly a real flood event of times past like the 1980s. This would be normal winter year, although even that seems to be changing with the climate disruption.

Image: Mojave Jones (Panoramio)
Again as you can observe in the above photo, this is now wintertime. The riparian trees are all dormant as per lack of any leaves in the photograph. Still, if there were a much larger floodplain allowed alongside the main channel with a greater vegetation content, the water speed would be radically reduced. Studies show that forced narrow channels cut, gouge and scour the physical water course and that should not be the goal in water transport which is all that is considered. No one should ever want an L.A. River Concrete monster on steroids in their own backyard. That is never an answer or option. A more natural approach would also allow for far better water infiltration and percolation into the valley's water table aquifer further facilitated by the phenomena of hydraulic descent even by dormant trees. If you view the map image below, you will notice that there are some attempts and plans to take land development use off the table and allow for the natural buffering. 

Regional Conservation Authority - Western Riverside County
"On June 24, 2009, the RCA acquired the San Jacinto River Ranchos property, totaling approximately 73.29 acres. This property is located within the San Jacinto Valley Area Plan, Subunit 3 - Upper San Jacinto River/Bautista Creek area. The property also falls within Rough Step Unit 2. The acquisition of the property is expected to help conserve important biological resources including arroyo toad, mountain yellow-legged frog, burrowing owl, Cooper's hawk, least Bell's vireo, southwestern willow flycatcher, yellow warbler, bobcat, Los Angeles pocket mouse, mountain lion, western pond turtle and slender-horned spine flower. The subject property will assist in providing a linkage for wildlife movement along the San Jacinto River and is adjacent to existing PQP conserved land to the north and east of the property. On July 28, 2009, the RCA also acquired the Meadows at Lone Cone property, totaling approximately 67.61 acres. The Meadows at Lone Cone property is immediately southeast and adjacent to the San Jacinto River Ranchos property and contains similar biological resources."
Regional Western Conservation Authority, Riverside County 
Now, Getting down to the Bear facts as I see them

illustration: Soren Hendrich

image: Mike Cavaroc 2010
This great illustration above reveals the importance of Bears to riparian woodland systems. Black bears are omnivores with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. That seems to be universal with most bears, although we think of Grizzlies as more meat eater. Hollywood *sigh* They typically live in largely forested areas like those of the San Bernardino National Forests, but most likely they would have left those forests in search of food in valleys below perhaps in the wintertime when they were clearly abundant and observed and noted by the Spanish Explorer Journals. Notice in that illustration above the watershed ecosystem to the left has more bears, old logs and debris pile ups associated up and down the riverbed which allows for more slow water movement and meandering ? Also the one on the right has less debris and logs in the stream or riverbed in the lack of large presence of bears ? Bears have an incredible nose for food sources and can scour through a forest floors opening up the understory. As the photo above illustrates, the Bears foraging around dead logs and perhaps still standing dead trees looking for bark beetle grubs. In so doing, they further degrade the dry dead vegetation with their powerful tools which allows further more efficient decomposing which allows nutrients into the Earth only to be returned to the other living vegetation. And let's no forget the health benefits of 
Earth being a much crappier place at one time

Image: Wildfire Programs
The illustration here of a man made cleanup in a riparian understory in the  photograph is important for a number of reasons. First, in historical times winter rainy season flooding had the ability to remove and redistribute dead materials from the riparian forested understories. These floods also would have flattened grasses and other small plants to the forest floor where many microbial components could further break them down. Much the way heavy snows do in high elevations. Newer small plants come in spring and refresh the ground under the trees and the process starts all over again. This leaves bears, beavers and other animals to further rummage and redistribute the material on the ground as they need or see fit. As far as bears, they could deal with even dead standing trees by knocking these over, sometimes into the water courses themselves while foraging for grubs. Beaver could more easily acquire smaller dead branches from such bear fallen trees to utilize as construction materials inserted into the dam or other lodge projects, thus contributing to water debris piles or jams we saw in the other previous illustration above which provided the protective nursery habitat for smaller fish. The other main point to consider here is wildfire. Modern weedy vegetation chocked streams and riverbeds in Southern California are no longer a natural wet impediment to an advancing wildfire. Often times the bull doze their way through a riparian area with massive amounts of dead material ripe for wildfire consumption. Another reason better water management is necessary. The cost of mismanagement because of ignorance has been much higher in the long run.

image: logs and trees
I've selected this image here on the left to illustrate the benefits of what various logs piles and jams in just the right locations can do for a river or stream. This animation is actually taken from a website dealing with fishing for which I have linked to at the bottom of this post in the references section. It illustrates where fish prefer to lay low and hide. When I visited family in eastern Iowa in the summer months (late 60s early 70s), I'd go fishing just about everywhere and those woody debris like branches and log jams piled up in a sort of birds or rats nest were perfect places to drop a line with bait. In main river channels with large log jams, sometimes containing whole trees, it was the sucker type fishes which preferred these locations. We'd always throw sweet corn in a open hole within the jam which would attract the Red or White Horse Suckers. Put sweet corn on a hook and you'd have a catch. These fish fed on the algae growing on the logs inside the river, hence the sucking sounds we'd hear were Suckers scavenging algae on tree branches underwater. Given a similar diet with the Santa Ana Sucker who forage gravel, small rocks and boulders for the same thing, it could well be that such fish could have existed in the San Jacinto River if the channel were opened at times of higher than normal rainfall to the Santa Ana, whether or not they really did is another one of those things we'll simply have to ponder. They prefer a clear clean water, something the San Jacinto River does have when it has continual flow after winter's flood stage is finished. In any event, the speculation is fun. Here are is a link which illustrates the necessary pools for fish as provided by logs:
image: Gordon Robinson
Of course then there is that nagging question that keeps haunting me, were there ever Beaver in the San Jacinto River Valley ? You know the Beaver would have flourish if they were around such shallow reedy pools, marshes and slower movement of water throughout the year would have suited their purposes wonderfully. There are no references to the Explorers  seeing and/or documenting beaver here in the San Jacinto valley, but references to them seeing native women wearing fine clothes made of Beaver skins around San Luis Obispo and one mention is of Anza receiving 30 beaver skins as a gift in San Luis Obispo by a Priest from there are recorded. If beaver were there at San Luis Obispo, then more than likely other areas of Southern California would have had them present. At best I would say any beaver in the San Jacinto Valley might be related to the Sonoran Beaver which is throughout the Colorado River Valley to Baja and Imperial Valley. Any connections to the coast would have come by way of San Felipe Creek and filtered up through the mountains. In any event, Beaver could have flourished in the slower moving waterways in and around the San Jacinto Valley areas. Also such Beaver populations could more easily become efficiently eradicated in Southern California as this was one of the main targets of human growth and agricultural needs. There is simply not enough water and what exists there is not enough even for the existence of life now as evidenced by the fact that multiple strategies have been devised to import water from other areas. The rainfall totals are far lower than elsewhere would not have supported both natural and artificial systems together.

Riverside Flood Control

"Streams the way Nature intended them to be"
Any riparian ecosystem should have a great dynamic of biodiversity in the form of multiple plant species, large & small animals, birds, fish, amphibians, and microorganism communities along with all the non-living elements such as geography, the right water chemistry, all interacting as a single functional unit. Something about the photo here of University Channel makes me think of the Harris Ranch Beef website. Can you imagine if Harris Ranch Corp had a Industrial Irrigation Construction website, what their company slogan would say, "Streams the way Nature intended them to be" ? The problem I see with most modern changes made to any ecosystem's character are the changes in it's various community members and changes in physical contexts, sometimes crossing a threshold of tolerance within the system that results in its inability to rehab back into its previous natural form. Austrian Forester Viktor Schauberger even warned about this deliberate attempt at ignoring the long term consequences in favour of the immediate financial gains when it came to re-channel natural river systems with artificial ones. The results from human intervention to force things into these sterile lifeless channels allows for the demands to be met for their commercial interests. One by one when various natural mechanical components are removed, not really noticeable at first (just like any sickness or other cancerous ailment), until finally there is a sudden crash in it's life sustaining functions. An interesting characteristic that I observed about the San Jacinto and Hemet Valleys were the difference in soil textures and types. The eastern end of the valley where the Bautista Canyon Creek and San Jacinto River canyons emerged out onto the valley floor, the materials were much more like those in the top photo of this post with large boulders and cobble stones gradually giving way to a sandy soil riverbed. 

Hydrology & River Sciences
However, the western part of the valley has much more refined soil sediment or even clay-like qualities about it which is the main reasons for the historical presence of Vernal Pools and other small lakes that often remained for many months into the drier season. Surface waters in the form of rivers, lakes and wetlands are the most readily apparent component of the hydrologic cycle, but in most areas of S.J. Valley there is a strong interaction between surface flows and groundwater. The water table is not that deep in many places, which should be great news for any landscaping planner if he knows what he is doing. This interaction in the past would have been apparent when surface flows in perennial streams continued long after the rainy season's precipitation or snowmelt runoffs from the high country. Later the Monsoonal summer events would have had a moderating effect. Groundwater is recharged by infiltration from precipitation and surface flow and, depending on the depth of the water table and subsurface geology, groundwater may be subsequently released as surface flow. The release of groundwater to surface water provides most of the base flow for many of the San Jacinto River's contributing streams (like Portrero, Poppet, etc) through periods of no precipitation, or during winter when precipitation may be locked up in the form of snow.  It should also be noted that the mass of forested vegetation, marshes and backwater lagoons written about by these Spanish explorers also would have blocked out the larger heavier sedimentary rocky materials, but would have allowed the finer nutrient richer particles to filter on through which provided the bottom seal for many of the Vernal Pools and lakes on the western side of the Valley. Mind you, we're talking about a period of 1000s of years for all of this to continue uninterrupted. Yet, it took a little over 100+ years with so-called increased brain power infused with modern enlightenment to ruin it all today.

I'll close here as I can say what more I need to say in my main and final post on the Anza Expedition post next week. Below you may want to view and enjoy bears love of water in riparian habitats. Try and imagine this scene in numerous dead riparian regions which either exist in fraction or completely altogether. As always, please make practical application of things read and observed about Nature in your own garden and urban landscape.

"All parts of the fabrication and recycling process are cleverly linked and powered largely by water. The destruction of ocean crust via subduction leads to the formation of continental crust through water-facilitated melting. The destruction of continental crust via water-driven erosion ultimately replenishes the mantle for the next round of ocean crust production. Efficient, sustainable, robust, and elegant, the system would win top honors in an industrial design competition." [emphasis mine] 
 The above quote is from Geology Prof Marcia Bornjerud who commented on the tectonic system in her book, "Reading the Rocks". The first and last sentences struck me as beautifully descriptive of a healthy riparian ecosystem when viewed as a well oiled machine. Of course I know she's talking about the Earth's Tectonic plate mechanisms, but still ? She wrote a wonderful piece a few years back on Fracking and Strip Mining which I found interesting:
A Change We Didn’t See Coming: Hydraulic Fracturing and Sand Mining in Wisconsin 
Interesting Reading References:
California Chaparral Institute: "The Tunnels of Rancho Penasquitos"
FlickRiver: Hemet-San Jacinto Valley
Where to Fish in a River
Here is an article I remember reading several years back from the Washington University of St. Louis about how different the Missouri River is presently compared to when Lewis and Clark first journeyed on it. It was much wider then and less flood prone because of greater width. The river now is far narrower because of the work done by Army Corps of Engineers and more subject to floods than it was back in history. Go figure!
Lewis and Clark data show a different Missouri River 
Here is a further take on some geographical mechanisms which can shape, create, tear down and rebuild a natural water course and it's the example of the two water flow channels of Bautista Creek mention by Fray Pedro Font which the majority of folks presently living in the city of eastern Hemet know nothing about:
Old Bautista Creek Channel East and West side
This is a further link to a piece I wrote recently about Juan Bautista de Anza's description from his diary of when he approached the Santa Ana River valley looking just like the the San Jacinto Valley he just traveled from. Today there is no such comparison, so I provided a reverse description to illustrate what San Jacinto Valley looked like in times past. Had I not done this, there is no other way to explain it to you.
Finally, this mostly has my own personal speculation as to possible historic connections of waterways to the Santa Ana River on a more permanent basis which would have allowed various other native fishes to exist, even if at times temporarily isolated:
San Jacinto River Wildlife Refuge & the wetlands potential beyond to Corona 


  1. Congrats on such thorough and far reaching articles. Thanks for looking out for beaver evidence in the De Anza journals and on San Jacinto. As the extreme southern edge of their range their was likely always a waxing and waning of their populations in socal and especially down into San Diego county area. CA has gone through tough droughts in the past. Such periods of prolonged droughts could have extirpated beaver in watersheds even without human impact. Good attention at woody debris. Have you ever looked into the fascinating and little explored world of aquatic fungi? Many inverts and fish are actually grazing on aquatic fungi growing on wood in addition to algae/bacteria. With regards to bears grizzlies, especially in socal, actually kept out black bears due to competitive exclusion. Only after grizzly were killed off did black bear start moving into San Bernardino mtns/coast ranges in any large numbers. I think I read this in CA grizzly great book you should check out. Also lamprey are an interesting fish to look at with regards to riparian health and they do range into san diego. While notorious as adults for parasitic behavior the young, which live for up to 7 years in freshwater, are actually filter/detrital feeders and clarify the water. They may actually benefit salmon in this manner by cleaning up the water and providing food for growing steelhead etc. Beaver of course benefit both. Cheers

    1. Thanks Duane and thanks for the Lamprey heads up. I saw your post in the feed but have been way too busy finishing things up before I leave for San Diego next Wednesday.

      But I will definitely have a look, does sound extremely interesting.


  2. Thanks for all your hard work. I reblogged it.

  3. Thanks for sharing this post and information. The Black Bears on the east coast seem to be making a come back.. But, it is sad to see they started a Black Bear Hunt in Maryland.. Have a great weekend!


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