My Wild, Wet, and (Sometimes) Miserable Paddling Trip Through the Heart of California


By Brendan Borrell

Record rainfall in California gave the author a chance to embark on a paddling trip through the flooded San Joaquin Valley. Along the way, he encountered law enforcement, colorful characters, and River Partners’ Austin Stevenot, who introduced the author to Dos Rios Ranch.

[Austin Stevenot, the San Joaquin Valley field manager for the nonprofit River Partners] gestured toward perfectly spaced rows of young saplings in the floodwater. This wasn’t another thirsty almond plantation, but a restoration plot with thriving young willows, cottonwoods, and box elders. “Over the past hundred years,” he said, “we’ve lost over 95 percent of our riparian forests.” River Partners bought this marginal land from farmers who’d had enough of the destructive cycle of drought and flood. “It’s helping them get out of a bad situation, and it’s helping nature by putting stuff back the best way we can.”

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