Following the Rivers to the Coast

We made our way back to the ocean the same way water does-- by following a river to the sea. The Eel River winds its way through the southern Redwood groves, and we used it as our guide. One afternoon we had the choice to continue burning our way up and down hills for another 15 miles, or stop early in the afternoon, buy some beers and take a swim in the Eel. This is a lesson of bike tour: sometimes you should stop and take a swim. 

There were some German boys down at the river when we emerged from the canyon trail. They were wearing tiny matching bathing suits and they were straight out of every teenage girl's or gay man's dream: boyish faces, six packs, and one had thighs like tree trunks. They asked if we were also biking (they could tell by our tans). They had enjoyed the Eel's swimming hole so much they had taken a rest day there.


Though the entire state of California is experiencing severe drought, somehow they Eel's 15 foot swimming hole is still holding water. Big warm rocks lined the shore edge, and steep cliff ledges rose up around the hole. They were perfectly jumpable. 


The park attendant explained to us that the river didn't used to be the turquoise green it is now. As beautiful as the shimmering river was, the color is a result of algae blooms caused by massive over-fertilization. And who is fertilizing up in Humboldt County? Illegal grow ops hidden deep in the National Forests. There is so much illegal marijuana being grown irresponsibly with chemicals in this tiny region that it is poisoning their waterways. A few dogs that ate that river algae have died.

And back to the drought. The entire West Coast is experiencing extreme dry climate, causing some California municipalities to impose water restrictions. We picked up a local Humboldt county magazine to read up on the new laws. Some cities have restricted their water use by half, and some cities are forbidden to use potable water to spray on sidewalks or irrigate their yards. In rural municipalities, water has to be trucked in in huge tankards, and then it is distributed to homeowners and businesses. The water truckers are only allowed to haul a certain amount of water now, and some truckers are resorting to stealing water from fire hydrants to provide their customers. City officials don't know how much water has been lost to theft. 

This is the future as most scientists see it. Changing climates are causing weather patterns to become more and more extreme, so the West can expect longer and dryer droughts. It's not going to get better, and the best folks can hope to do is adapt to decreasing water supply by using less.

And how did Californian's respond to critical drought water restrictions? They used more water than they did before the laws were put in place.