Press "Enter" to skip to content

Research And The River (Part 4)

One of the ways this reporter has lived the Navarro River is visiting its swimming holes on those steamy hundred degree days in August when there's nowhere else in the Valley to be after 11 AM. Bobby Glover, the renowned Navarro historian and last of the Guntlys to live here used to recite a mantra of named "holes" that stretched from Bear Wallow through Ham Canyon, to Philo, River Rest past Phi Moore to Pinole's, Clarks, Blue Rock all the way to Iron Bridge at Highway 128 milepost 3.75 or so.

My own favorites include Blue Rock perhaps a mile and a half downstream from the junction with Floodgate Creek. Blue Rock, a dramatic green-grey serpentine escarpment, is also the narrowest spot in the river I know about, our own Rheingau. The channel fits between a steep and a steeper, dramatically taller bluff on each side and in summer narrows down to 25 feet wide, ten feet deep and anywhere between a hundred feet to a quarter mile long. Another whose name I 've never discovered, or forgotten, is at MP 6.48 where as you walk through the redwoods to the beach the vinca and digitalis growing wild tells us someone once had a home on that flat (just found out who it was two weeks ago, another story), and down on the beach you can both swim under the old Navarro mill railroad right of way and catch crawdads for a gumbo dinner as well.

Actually since I moved here in '71, two wonderful "holes" have disappeared. The best was just west of Cape Horn where the river straightens out, a small pinnacle and grassy bluff just below the elevated main logging road with three redwood suckers growing out if it. The river in winter hit the bluff just right to create the deepest hole I've found so far in the Navarro, over twenty five feet, I think, and about seventy five feet long. The water so cool when it was over ninety in the shade. But after an el Nino year, 1990, I think, it simply was no more, no rocks, no trees, no hole, just a deeper than typical river course heading west to Perry Gulch. Same with the one Doug Johnson showed me along the North Fork just after the Flynn Creek/Navarro Ridge turnoff. You could drive across the silt there in summer and park at the "hole," about eighteen feet deep, hundred feet long. Did it fill in gradually or in one winter? I only know I drove in one heatwave day after several years' absence, walked up and down the bank for a couple of hundred yards. It was gone.

The purpose of this final article describing the UC AES "MEETING AGRICULTURAL WATER NEEDS IN THE NAVARRO RIVER WATERSHED" Report is to propose and explore some ways for interested parties from the whole community to participate in addressing the information needs the last article identified as a route to a fuller picture of present and future usage rates of the water the mighty but fragile Navarro provides us.

The previous articles combine analysis of the Watershed and the whole ecosystem its geology and climate have created for us. Those articles were so technically complicated there was no room to celebrate my appreciative respect for the way it influences the course of the day-to-day lives of most of our community. In my adventure here over more than two generations I've noticed it serves not just the vineyards and wineries, commerce of all sizes whether AV Market or the Navarro Store, the Hotel or the new French Bistro at Floodgate. To a remarkably important extent the Watershed, the habitats it supports along with the resource it provides also influences deeply the texture of the non-commercial lives we live here, be we homeowners or renters, craftsmen, schoolteachers, local professionals, ag workers, people with backyard gardens of creative variety, blackberry gatherers in summer, mushroom hunters in autumn and spring, fishermen along the river in winter or whole families on the beach of a Sunday at River Rest or Iron Bridge.

Now having preached the obvious to many of our readers, I'll get down to the difficult agenda the article header advertises, "what is to be done" to capture the information the community needs to understand how the watershed system works, what its usage capacity is, and how can the community find ways to use the resource in a sustainable way for the benefit of all its constituencies.

The proposals I make below I don't consider a comprehensive prescription for the issue I am publicizing. They are more in the line of some random propositions to provoke those readers with similar ideas and more knowledge to offer these resources to the rest of us for our education in and consideration of a further watershed analysis project.

To sustain a community Watershed evaluation effort FUNDRAISING is UNAVOIDABLE. To represent the community are groups like the AV Winegrowers Ass'n or the Chamber of Commerce valid candidates for the responsibility? What about the Lions or the Unity Club? Would private foundations or government agencies provide grant support for qualified community organizations. What about taxation as a funding source through the AVCSD?

Who would provide the research skills to generate the remaining datapoints needed to complete the Navarro River watershed availability and usage picture? I understand the environmental organization Nature Conservancy has an active interest in the river and in recent years placed staff here in the Valley, including helping UC with the Survey. Would this group be interested in helping with the kind of research the Ag Extension Service has already shown us is possible? Would AES continue its project along the lines I propose above if the work were funded with locally generated contributions?

Could the community practice its fundraising skills by raising the capital to invest in a new Gauging Station for the river closer to the watershed's usage area than the one at Hop Flat? A device to be installed at Pinole Hole, or at Cape Horn or Perry Gulch, for example?

What other fundraising ends and means beyond mine listed here can we find?

So that's my song of respect and affection for, and reliance on the Navarro River watershed and its influence on this writer's and most of all of our lives. Let me close by reminding the reader: my journalistic intention is to inform and engage you in the NAVARRO RIVER WATERSHED Survey and its value as something we can all contribute to building on for the benefit of the Anderson Valley as a whole.

I also know these articles are insufficient for promoting the importance of the Navarro to our lives. Some of you probably notice that I don't address issues like watershed habitats preservation and restoration, for example. Guilty, and with the defense that I don't know enough about these matters to try to. So let that confession be a provocation to readers to make their own contribution to supporting my intentions, that you with the time and additional knowledge and ideas will write back with your views on what I am trying to address here. Come on, friends and neighbors, step up, fire back. What do you know about the watershed and its capabilities that will help us understand and protect its value? What are your thoughts, too, on the theme of this piece of journalism. "What is to be Done?"

Again the web address for the NAVARRO RIVER WATERSHED report:

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: I asked interested friends and neighbors to review drafts of these articles for the accuracy and interpretive credibility of my reporting on the Watershed Survey. Their comments have improved both elements of the writing, but I am solely responsible for the way I describe and analyze the Survey and the watershed itself.



  1. Anya Grange May 1, 2019

    Ah Brad. Still making up stories. In my 10 years of living in AV I don’t remember you ever spending an August exploring the swimming holes. You were always sailing off the Eastern Seaboard on your family’s yacht!

  2. George Hollister May 1, 2019

    I live next door in the Albion, but have seen significant changes in both watersheds in the last 50 years. A shift from logging, grazing, and burning to an increase in native vegetation, and grapes. The grapes get the focus because we readily see that, but the increase in native vegetation appears to have had a more significant impact, including an increase in fire risk. The likely biggest impact, though, is a substantial increase in the transpiration rate in the watershed due to the increase in the canopy cover of native vegetation. Pot? People-wise, yes. Money-wise, yes, too. But otherwise, not much impact on the watershed. Thanks for your efforts, Brad.

Leave a Reply to George Hollister Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.