Since it's creation in 1983, the American River Parkway Foundation has been striving to protect and sustain one of Sacramento County's most valuable natural resources, the American River Parkway. Following along the Lower American River, the Parkway offers equestrian and hiking trails, a first-class bike trail, and most of all a great paddling venue.
In conjunction with Sacramento County Parks, the ARPF coordinates programs and works with volunteers to foster environmental stewardship, facilitate volunteer opportunities, as well as fund and implement many Parkway projects.This past month, the folks from the ARPF asked me to share my experiences of paddling along the Lower American River in their Stories from the Parkway series in hopes of increasing awareness, use, and support of this amazing river trail.
Sliding my kayak gently into the water, it’s not hard to grasp why in a few short years how this river has become so significant to me. I’ve come to know this river’s fickle moods. Its high water winters and early spring rush, its summertime playfulness, and its autumn bounty when the native Chinook salmon swim back upstream to spawn. I’ve paddled its slumberous wide curves and through its fast water rapids. I’ve watched its water roaring like thunder pouring its last dam and followed its a clear and bright emerald ribbon of water all the way to its end to dip my bow in at its milky confluence.
I often tell people paddling with me that after we push off onto the river they will be experiencing a totally different world even though we are in the heart of a densely populated urban area. Paddling down the river never ceases to amaze me of how I can escape into a backyard of nature just a few minutes from the buzz of city traffic. Where the only sound you will hear is that of birds, the wind and that primeval summons to our primordial values, the call of distant rapids coming from downriver.
As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “He who hears the rippling of rivers in these degenerate days will not utterly despair.”
Sitting alongside the Lower American River earlier this week, the river does seem alive as it moved steadily to the sea. Flashes of Chinook salmon among the river’s ripples, scores of gulls, ducks and turkey vultures soar and flutter above, while I catch sight of black-tailed deer bounding through the stream. A large beavertail splash serves as a warning that I’ve come a just bit to close to his domain while chattering otters bark at my passing. The trees, vegetation, and even the rocky pilings that extend all the way along the stream add to the inspirit to this living essence.
It’s nature’s age-old symbiotic relationships between the river and all of its creatures. As long as the water keeps flowing, the river and the life it nurtures will continue to exist.
As humans in the era of climate change, we need to recognize this natural world around us and make our duty to care for it, protect it, and pass it on to generations to come.
This article was originally published as part of the American Rivers Foundation's Stories from the Parkway Series. The series is about people and their experiences while on the American River Parkway in hopes of strengthening the understanding of the American River Parkway and the value it brings to the community. We encourage all of you to support the American River Parkway Foundation and its mission. And if you have a story you would like to tell about your experience using the parking, you can share it with the ARPF Newsletter.