~Exploring the Cosumnes River’s new personality

~I’ve dipped my paddle into the Consumnes River more than a dozen times, but never like this.  Recent rains have resulted in swollen rivers, one of which is the Consumnes River that flows through and along the Consumnes River Preserve located off I-5.  There are 50,000+ acres in the preserve and this is a winter haven for migratory birds as they fly along the Pacific Flyway.  There are hiking trails, paddling and birding opportunities, and a multitude of educational programs.

If you’ve been here before, you will recognize the building off in the distance as the Visitor Center.  The area flooded with water is a parking lot.  Water levels have subsided by about 4-5 feet as is evident from the grass that’s been flattened out.


My good friend and paddling buddy Nancy had the idea to go exploring.  She’s paddled here in recent years when water levels were just about as high.  So, we loaded up our gear and kayaks, drove past a few ‘road closed’ signs (we also talked to a local sheriff) and prepared to explore.


Here’s Nancy launching from the road leading out of the parking lot.


If you’ve paddled here, you’ll recognize this as the last of a 200 yard cement path that will lead you from the parking lot (above) and down to the floating boat dock.  The picture following is the stairwell leading to the lower parking lot in my first photo.


We followed the 200 yard path by memory, down to the boat dock, which was floating well above where it normally resides.  We typically would lock up our wheels on the tree to the left of the signs, barely poking up out of the water now.


I’ve taken a few walks on the preserve’s hiking trails in the past.  These trails are now all under water.


This sign looks in need of a haircut!


There was little to no wind, although the sun hadn’t poked out from behind the cloud cover, so it was a bit chilly.  The reflection in the water was pretty cool.


Had the marsh grass not been washed into this boardwalk, we could have paddled through.


The preserve will have a lot of cleaning up to do, once the water is gone.  Other than the walking trail that takes you on about a 3-5 mile loop, most of the preserve is protected and there are signs telling you to stay out or off of sensitive habitat areas.  I saw many bird boxes that had toppled over, but this was one was still standing.


Two different views of the train trestle, which afforded a way out for most wildlife.  On a visit here last week, we spotted a dozen or so deer heading North towards dryer ground.


As to wildlife, we saw this Great Blue Heron and Egret focusing their attention on something to my left.  (Not pictured, we also saw hawks, tree sparrows, blue jays, king fishers, squirrels, several vultures and sadly, a dead bobcat.)


I had a chance to get out and stretch my legs, as I pulled Nancy over a little grassy area.


This is an interesting plaque nailed to a creosote soaked train trestle support post.


After exploring for about an hour or so, the sun’s warmth started to push through the layer of clouds.  It felt good as my toes were starting to get a little cold.  I should have known to wear my wool socks (polyester just doesn’t cut it like wool does!).


This is the only section that is actually the Cosumnes River.  The current was moving swiftly so after going upstream about a half mile, we decided to turn back around.


It was interesting to see this ‘personality’ of the river.  We didn’t venture towards the faster moving Mokelumne river, but rather chose to error on the side of caution and stay closer to the preserve.

There is more rain coming this week, so I imagine it will be quite a while before water levels here completely subside.  I would venture to guess the preserve will have a lot of cleanup and restoration work to do, so if you are interested in volunteer opportunities, please check out this link;





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