California drought

Yosemite in Winter with Infrared by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

All images below were taken using my IR camera that was converted from a Canon 5D.

For the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir images, I used the methods of Straight Photography in respect to the early photographers who dedicated themselves to taking photos of the West.  These images provided evidence to help conserves our national parks today.  The most famous of these photographers was of course Ansel Adams, but there were many others apart of Group f/64.  Others included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, and Willard Van Dyke.  These photographers would pack 100 pounds of photography equipment in order to bring back images of these great landscapes.  In some cases, a mule was required to carry their large format 8x10 camera, lenses, tripod, film, and portable darkroom into the wilderness.

For the photos taken at Mirror Lake, I also did some alternative processing using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to help pull out the difference in luminosity of the areas reflecting the IR spectrum.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

Yosemite has a few different entrances into the park, most of which lead to the well known Valley Floor.  However, the North end of the park also has an access point to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

It is said that before the reservoir was filled, it was an area that was just as beautiful as the rest of the park.  And, to some, it has been considered a great loss to have filled this area with another reservoir. After hearing this commentary over the years, I had always assumed that this area of the park was off limits.  I was wrong.  Not only is this area open to the public, it has fairly well maintained trails, is very beautiful, and has no entrance fee for day use.

This area of the park is less developed than the greater Yosemite.  There are no camp grounds, stores, or hotels here.  However overnight backpacking is allowed with a wilderness permit.

With the recent rains, the waterfalls and cascades in Yosemite were looking very impressive.  There was so much water that small streams had formed, taking over sections of the trail by running across and even along them.  Waterproof boots required.  The water increased difficulty of the hike, but it was still manageable and I would recommend checking out this area of the park.  I do not see this reservoir as a tragic mistake of lost tourism opportunities.  It is in fact still beautiful.

With the recent drought that California has been going through, we need all the reserves we can get without further damaging the environment.  Dams for the purpose of creating energy, are not very effective when compared to other methods and should not be driving reason for construction anymore.  They are also not good for the ecosystem as a whole, since they trap the needed sediment that our shorelines use for protecting us from the ocean's powerful force of erosion.  However, dams are not a great evil.  California does not have the same luxury that Washington state has in terms of the abundant supply of rain water.  There is no one fix-all solution for being able to provide resources to the people.  We must look at what we have locally to best decide how we can provide what is needed.  Northern California would benefit from its reservoirs and water treatment plants to recycle waste water during its cycles of drought.  I would like to point out that this area of California is not a desert.  It has  rich areas of soil provided by the erosion of the Sierra Nevada's that is carried downstream to the Northern and Central part of the state.  In these rich areas of Central Valley, it provides 1/4 of the nations produce.  If the rest of the country is only capable of producing in large quantities wheat, corn, livestock, and energy- the country, and the world, will continue to hear about California's drought concerns every 5 to 10 years.

Desalinization for this part of California would not be a good idea for economic and environmental reasons.  To produce water through desalinization, it is double the cost in comparison to obtaining it from reservoirs and it has proven to be very destructive for our marshy shorelines.  However, desalinization could be beneficial to other areas.  As a response to the recent drought, Southern California has started a project to create 15 desalinization plants.  For them, this may serve as a better source of obtaining water than piping it all the way down the state as they have better areas for disposing the unused salt down there.

Mirror Lake

The lake was more full thanks to the help of the snow this season and one busy beaver family.  There was a lot evidence of their work from the half chewed tree trunks along the perimeter of the lake and the pile of limbs at one end of the river.  It was only last spring, that a person could walk across the meadow-like area to reach the other side of the trail. We estimate that the water depths now range between 2'-10' based on the known heights of boulders that were accessible for climbing on before.

Although beavers can be very destructive in changing the landscape, we may be able to thank these little structural engineers for helping restore this area back to its name and historical environment.  Mirror Lake had been slowly disappearing due to the natural build up of sediment flowing into the lake bed.  Although beavers are not native to the Sierras, the park at this time has not published if they will be removing the rodents from their new home.

Don Pedro Reservoir by Brenda (Hartshorn) Licitra

Last Hike of the Year

I went to Don Pedro Reservoir last weekend with my Infrared Camera and observed the devastation of our drought in California.  We may have had a lot of rain these past few weeks, however it's apparent that we have a lot of catching up to do.  Don Pedro is currently holding about 792,000 acre ft of water.  This might sounds like a lot, however it is down 558,000 from its historical average of 1,350,000 for this month.  It is currently only holding 39% of its total capacity.

Drought Evidence

You can clearly see from the photos where the normal water line for the lake is by the division of dirt and grass at the top of the ridge.  It is also interesting to see the old trees peaking up from the water from when the valley was flooded back in 1971 to make the reservoir larger.  The new dam provides the new capacity of holding 570,000 acre ft.  This is nearly doubled the original capacity of 289,000 acre ft from the dam built in 1921.

These are California Black Oaks, which grow to be 30-50 ft tall.  Since these are poking out of the water nearly 20 ft in some cases, we can get a pretty good estimate that the lake is no more than 10-30 ft deep in this area.

 

Treasures Revealed

The drought has also revealed the Eagle Shawmut Mine.  The remains of the structure would make a great backdrop for a fashion photo shoot and I plan to return here once I have acquired the necessary equipment and crew.  Unfortunately, due to the drought many of the boat launching areas have been closed due to the water levels no longer reaching the docks.  I will be unable to return here until the level of the lake rises.  One more reason to pray for rain.