A week ago I was fortunate enough to attend an event celebrating the acquisition of 1600 acres of riverfront farmland and riparian habitat at the confluence of the Tuolumne River and the San Joaquin River. Dos Rios Ranch was purchased from the Lyons Family through a combined effort of two organizations: River Partners and The Tuolumne Trust. The purchase of Dos Rios Ranch will provide for restoration and improvement of historic riparian habitat and will at the same time leave a significant part of the ranch in agricultural production. In addition there will be increased public access for fishing, camping and just enjoying nature.
For as long as I can remember, both the Tuolumne and the San Joaquin have played a significant role in my development as an angler. For as far back in my memory as I can recall, I have been learning and fishing on the Tuolumne. When I was five years old I got lost along the Tuolumne while fishing with my dad. When I was about seven I was in the company of old Carl Upton when I encountered my first rattlesnake above Lumsdens Bridge. I saw my first Bald Eagle there with Pete Simpson when I was 22 and caught my first really big trout of 22 inches with Don McGeein when I was 25.
I have similar memories of the San Joaquin, catching a washtub full of live bluegills at Oak Island and taking them home to feed our pet Osprey. Catching my first sturgeon on a tributary of the San Joaquin known as Black Lake and not even knowing what it was until Jimmy Corso set me straight. I remember catching crawdads with Ray McCray, and catfish with Oak Primm. While the San Joaquin Delta teems with warm water species, its headwaters high in the Sierra are home to wild trout swimming in crystal clear waters. The only way to get to prime trout water on the San Joaquin is to pack in by horseback or on foot. Precisely because it is so difficult to reach, on the upper San Joaquin, West of Devils Postpile, it is entirely possible to catch and release over 100 trout a day. That’s quite a contrast to the warm water experience at Dos Rios Ranch!
Now, River Partners, with assistance from The Tuolumne Trust will begin to restore the riparian habitat and hopefully the warm water fishery, hopefully to some semblance or the incredible wild paradise it was before the white man arrived. A vital part of the restoration process will be the continuation of agricultural production while improving wildlife habitat. It is an incredibly difficult balance to achieve, but I believe that River Partners and the Tuolumne Trust can succeed. If they do, ordinary folks like you and I will have a chance to fish, picnic, and explore at the confluence of these great rivers, for generations to come.
For more information, or to volunteer your assistance in this groundbreaking project, contact River Partners at www.riverpartners.org or The Tuolumne Trust at www.tuolumne.org. Tell ‘em Don Moyer sent you!
Until next time, Tight Lines.
Don Moyer is a longtime Central Valley resident and avid outdoorsman. He contributes occasional columns.