Progress to Date
To better understand the enabling conditions for the San Joaquin River Blueway, the Partnership undertook a collaborative effort with the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service and several other partners to assemble an inventory of sites that currently provide public access to the river, as well as areas that seemed to have promise or potential for providing future access. Our work helped us identify the corridor’s significant gaps in river access. This information is shown on the maps on the following pages.
These general observations from our initial inventory provide a starting point for establishing the San Joaquin River Blueway, and a basis upon which to build during the next, more detailed planning phase.
Lower San Joaquin River: Confluence with the Merced River to the Delta
This stretch of the river includes significant sections of private lands protected by conservation and floodplain agreements, but very limited and intermittent public access. The eastern tributaries provide some of the most developed access along this stretch of the river, such as the Caswell State Park on the Stanislaus River. In addition to county- and city-managed parks and boat launch sites, this stretch of the river is home to the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.
Upper San Joaquin River: Friant Dam to the Confluence with the Merced River
The upper San Joaquin River includes clusters of restored and protected natural areas, as well as long stretches of river that until recently did not have any water in them at all. Current public access is largely confined to the southern-most and northern-most portions of this segment, by the San Joaquin River Parkway and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, respectively. The nearly 100 river miles that were previously de-watered do not have any direct, on-river access. The restoration program will address this entire stretch, providing the chance to significantly expand recreational use in line with restoration goals.
The San Joaquin River Parkway stretches 23 miles starting immediately before Friant Dam and is the best-developed area along the river on the Valley floor for all types of river recreation. Other access includes the Andrew Firebaugh Historical Park, the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, Great Valley Grasslands State Park, North Grasslands Wildlife Area, Grasslands Ecological Area, and Hatfield State Recreation Area.
Headwaters Stretch: Above Friant Dam
The segment of the river above Friant Dam is markedly different from the rest of the river due to the mountainous terrain and the river’s steep and narrow channel. The headwaters stretch offers public access, including Millerton State Recreation Area, the San Joaquin River Trail, San Joaquin River Gorge, Sierra National Forest, and Devil’s Postpile National Monument. The San Joaquin River Trail and River Gorge provide opportunities for hiking and advanced whitewater boating, respectively.
When the salmon were rolling in the rocks and laying their eggs in the river, you could hear them clanging and banging on the cobblestones.