A Landing a Day

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Upper San Joaquin Valley, California

Posted by graywacke on March 13, 2015

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-three-or-four days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2163; A Landing A Day blog post number 591.

 Dan:  Today’s landing marks the 51st straight western / midwestern landing (but thankfully a USer). . . CA; 100/116; 3/10; 29; 150.9.

Here we go again.   51 landings in a row that haven’t touched the east!  Just like my last bunch of posts, I’ll do the statistics:  Each landing, I have a 0.82 chance of a western / midwestern landing.  Raise that number to the 51st power (and then take the inverse) and I get one chance in 24,860 that I would not land in the east for 51 straight landings!!!   Phew. . .

Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

I’ll have to call this a smack-dab-in-the-middle landing, as it turns out I landed very close to the geographic center of California!  More about that later.

My local landing map shows a plethora of small towns:

 landing 2a

As you can tell by the title of this post, none of these towns were hook-worthy (and trust me, I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for that elusive hook).  Here’s an expanded map view to provide a more regional setting:

landing 2b


My watershed analysis could hardly be simpler.  As you can see below I landed very close to the San Joaquin River (10th hit):

 landing 3a

Just for the heck of it, I added various upstream tributaries to the above map.  Expanding the view, here’s a broader view of the San Joaquin:

 landing 3b

See the peculiar gap where the river disappears?  The San Joaquin loses its flow thanks to incredible demands for municipal water supply (primarily Los Angeles) as well as Central Valley irrigation demands.  More about the poor river later.

Here’s my Google Earth (GE) trip in:


Staying with Google Earth, here’s a shot looking up the San Joaquin Valley:

 GE 1

No doubt about where a drop of water from my landing ends up!

I get the feeling that this is going to be a post that has a little of this and a little of that.  I think I’ll start with my previous smack-dab-in-the-middle-of comment.  Here’s a GE shot showing you how close I landed to the geographic center of the state:

 GE geographic center

And leave it to California!  There’s actually a monument there.  Here’s a GE Panoramio shot by WKCreations:

 pano WKCreations center of california

The next item on the agenda is the bridge over Stevens Creek Waterfall on the “Million Dollar Road.”  Evidently, one mile of the road cost one million dollars, a heck of a lot of money in the 1920s when it was built.  Here’s a StreetAtlas landing map showing the Million Dollar Road and the location of the Stevenson Creek Bridge, just a couple of miles from my landing:

 landing 4 - stevenson creek falls million dollar road

I found a couple of GE Panoramio shots of the bridge.  First, this one by Morsel:

pano morsel stevenson falls

And then one by S_Lamb20:

pano s_lamb20 stevenson falls


Cool spot, eh?  I then found a terrible You Tube video (by David Signor), that is fortunately very short.  Wait until you see the scene at the end!


Here’s a more professionally-produced You Tube video of biking on the road, by GoProBikeAdventures:


Next on my agenda is the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project.  What first caught my eye was this GE shot:

 GE Redinger Lake hydro

I wondered what was at the upstream end of the lake (the yellow oval), so I zoomed in:

  GE Redinger Lake

Hmmm.  Looks like a power station, with water flowing through some pipes, then through the power station and then out into the river.  Here’s another GE shot to give you some 3-D perspective:

GE Redinger Lake hydro (3)

So where does the water come from?  Out of the mountain?  I rolled up my sleeves and learned a little about the Big Creek Hydroelectric Project.  From Wiki:

The Big Creek Hydroelectric Project is an extensive hydroelectric power scheme on the upper San Joaquin River system.  The use and reuse of the waters of the San Joaquin River, its South Fork, and the namesake of the project, Big Creek – over a vertical drop of 6,200 ft  – have over the years inspired a nickname, “The Hardest Working Water in the World”.

The primary purpose of the project was to provide electric power for the fast-growing city of Los Angeles. Construction of the system’s facilities started in 1911, and the first power was transmitted to Los Angeles in 1913. Since then, the system was gradually expanded to its present size, with the last powerhouse coming on line in 1987.

Today, these facilities include 27 dams, miles of underground tunnels, and nine powerhouses with a total installed capacity of more than 1,000 megawatts.

Today, the Big Creek project generates nearly 4 billion kilowatt hours per year – about 12 percent of all the hydroelectric power produced in California.  The Big Creek reservoirs also provide irrigation and flood control benefits for the Central Valley, and are popular recreation areas. However, the project has had various environmental and social impacts, including the disruption of fish and animal migration, and the flooding of historical sites and traditional Native American lands.

Here’s a Wiki map (by Shannon1; yellow highlights by me):


Look closely, and you can see the pipeline stretching from Dam 6 down to Redinger Lake.  That’s where the water comes in that feeds those pipelines shown above in the various Google Earth shots.  Here’s a close-up map showing the approimate pipeline route:

 landing 5 water pipeline

Moving right along . . . so, how about that missing portion of the San Joaquin River?  From National Geographic (April 2014):

American Rivers today released its annual report of America’s Most Endangered Rivers, with California’s San Joaquin River at the top of the list.  Outdated water management, compounded by the current drought, have put the San Joaquin River at a critical crossroads.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the San Joaquin River watershed.  The watershed provides drinking water to more than 4.5 million people, including the city of San Francisco, and support numerous endangered or declining species. The river also supports some of the most productive agriculture in the world, irrigating more than two million acres of land.

But the San Joaquin is so overtapped, through excessive diversions and groundwater overdraft, that it runs dry over long stretches. So much groundwater is pumped that swaths of land are sinking.  The river’s salmon and steelhead populations are on the brink of extinction.  The current drought is placing additional stress on the river and revealing the inadequacies of status quo water management for both people and the environment.

In naming the San Joaquin the nation’s #1 Most Endangered River, American Rivers is calling on the California State Water Resources Control Board to increase flows in the river to support water quality, fish, and sustainable agriculture.  American Rivers is also urging Congress to preserve agreements and laws designed to protect the San Joaquin River and the jobs and communities it supports.

Well, there you have it.  Did you note that the article talked about land subsidence due to groundwater withdrawals?  Well, it looks like most of the damage happened decades ago.  Here’s a Wiki picture showing 28 feet of subsidence between 1925 & 1977:

 wiki subsidence

All righty then.  Time for some close-to-my-landing GE Panoramio shots.  Here’s one of the San Joaquin by David Husted, taken just below my landing:

 pano david husted river below landing

And here’s a Redinger Lake shot by TravelWithPavel:

 pano travelwithpavel  redinger lake

The next lake down from Redinger is Kerckhoff Lake.  I’ll close with this shot of the lake by CALedbetter:

 pano kerckhoff lake by CALedbetter

That’ll do it.




© 2015 A Landing A Day




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