Return of the River (updated)

Owens River

Here’s a story I found rather heart-warming. The Lower Owens River, a river virtually killed a century ago when its water was diverted into the LA aqueduct, is coming back to life:

Independence, Calif. — Healing ailing rivers is Mark Hill’s specialty. So when the tall and lean ecologist visits one of his works in progress, he’s prepared to paddle a long and sinuous route to assess the health of his watery patient.

In this case, his charge is the Lower Owens River, a 62-mile-long stretch left essentially dry in 1913 after its flows of Sierra snowmelt were diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. After decades of political bickering, water was directed back into the riverbed in December, launching the largest river restoration effort ever attempted in the West.

Ecologists knew the Lower Owens would come back to life. But how fast would it rebuild itself? Which wildlife would appear first? Which plants?

Scientists have been surprised by some of the early answers, and to flesh out the details Hill recently took his first survey by kayak of the river. Hill, the lead scientist in the Lower Owens River Project, stepped into a blue inflatable 16-foot kayak, said “Let’s go,” and was soon scooting through the channel that cuts across the Owens Valley.

Hill’s daylong journey, which included visitors in a separate kayak, was marked by striking displays of birds, fish and insects already setting up shop during the restored river’s first summer. The water ran cold and, in this part of the channel, about knee deep. But the water was so clear that it seemed as though the kayaks were moving barely above the gravel bottom.

Read the whole thing. And check out this video clip.

Lots more pictures of the restoration project here. Hat tip: Aqua Blog Maven.

1 comment… add one
  • Yes, the river restoration is good news.

    Too bad it took them over a decade to get it done – a decade after the court ordered them to. However, it is nice to see the project come to fruition.

    Here is another website of the work in progress: Lower Owens Restoration Project website. The pictures are on the page titled “Recent Activity”.

    My website,, follows southern California water issues.


    Aqua Blog Maven

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